Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt resigns

The rats are leaving the sinking ship. This afternoon Axios reports that Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt has resigned from the group he co-founded. Lincoln Project spokesman Kurt Bardella also resigned today. Why now? Well, take your pick of the many possible answers to that question:

The backlash against the Lincoln Project began with the revelation last month that Mr. Weaver had repeatedly harassed young men and at least one minor. It intensified on Thursday with published reports that leaders had known about the harassment last year and failed to act; the demand by former workers to be released from their N.D.A.s; a scathing statement from another co-founder, Jennifer Horn, who recently resigned; and a series of tweets in which the group, without authorization, posted Ms. Horn’s private Twitter messages with a reporter.

Schmidt released a long statement about his reasons which mentions most of those revelations. It starts with an admission that he had once experienced unwanted sexual touching from an older boy when he was just thirteen. He says the brief experience at a summer camp have stayed with him for his entire life, leaving him struggling with anger and depression. From there, Schmidt relates his history with John Weaver, culminating with his anger at knowing Weaver has done to others what was once done to him.

Finally, Schmidt turns to the recent events involving the publication of private DMs belonging to Jennifer Horn:

Here’s the full statement:

I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, some of that sounds like very real trauma and I have sympathy for that. One of my beliefs as a conservative is that some things go beyond politics and this ought to be one of those things.

And yet…

Schmidt mentions that John Weaver may have made up stories about his poor health to avoid facing up to his own behavior. If true, that’s repulsive. But I can’t help but notice Schmidt himself appears to be working from the same playbook for similar reasons. He may be proud of it, but the Lincoln Project is collapsing beneath a tidal wave of bad news, from sexual abuse to self-dealing. Just because his own stories are true doesn’t mean they aren’t being used to manipulate an audience.

Keep in mind, as recently as yesterday Schmidt was still determined to crush the opposition by any means necessary. He says he was shown DMs involving two people and was told they came from an anonymous source. Is he an idiot? Did he not stop to wonder how that was even possible? Or is he lying about the discussion that went on, getting his story straight in case the FBI investigation into Weaver decides to look at this too? His account seems to rest on the idea that he has no idea how Twitter works which I’m not buying.

So yes, I think it’s very possible Steve Schmidt is a broken angry soul and that he’s decided to put that fact on display at this moment because he’s suddenly realized what a rotten sh*tstorm of rage and greed he’s running at the Lincoln Project.

Let me put it in a way that I know Schmidt himself would understand. Eventually, even President Trump was talking about a seamless transition of power. But by that point it was too late. Similarly, I think it’s too late for Schmidt to become the victim here.

I don’t want to mock or belittle his boyhood trauma but I do want the FBI to carefully look at when all of the principles of the Lincoln Project learned about Weaver’s behavior.

And the group’s donors deserve an accounting of what people like Schmidt personally gained from this in comparison to the amount they spent on attack ads. On that point, CNBC is reporting that the Lincoln Projects biggest donors are thinking about turning off the money spigot until this investigation is complete.

Several wealthy donors are considering cutting off their backing for the organization, according to people close to these financiers. They are paying especially close attention to the results of an external investigation into whether other leaders knew about co-founder John Weaver’s alleged harassment of several men, these people added.

Several of the people close to the donors declined to be named because they were concerned about retribution by Lincoln Project leaders and their allies.

That last bit is pretty stunning. Friends of the group’s own donors are afraid to speak up for fear of retribution from Schmidt and the rest. I don’t know, guys, maybe that’s a big hint you should stop funding them.