The Lincoln Project has shared a scathing statement disavowing co-founder John Weaver after 21 men came forward to accuse the longtime Republican strategist of sexually harassing them online.
On Sunday the New York Times published a bombshell report sharing the accounts of 21 accusers who said Weaver, 61, groomed and preyed on them for years with promises to help them get work in politics in exchange for sex.
The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC Weaver co-founded, released a statement condemning his actions hours after the report.
‘John Weaver led a secret life that was built on a foundation of deception at every level. He is a predator, a liar, and an abuser,’ the statement said, claiming the organization was unaware of his behavior.
However, Ryan Girdusky, a writer for American Conservative who broke the story about Weaver’s unsolicited sexual advances, blasted the Lincoln Project saying the group had been alerted about Weaver’s actions and did nothing about it for months.
He said Weaver’s actions were a ‘worst-kept secret’ within the organization.
He said several of the men who told him about the co-founder’s behavior had also contacted the Lincoln Project, as recently as last August, but ‘it was ignored across the board’.
Twenty-one men have come forward to accuse John Weaver (pictured), a longtime Republican strategist and co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, of sexually harassing them online
The Lincoln Project has shared a scathing statement disavowing Weaver on Sunday saying: ‘John Weaver led a secret life that was built on a foundation of deception at every level. He is a predator, a liar, and an abuser’
Weaver’s fall from grace kicked off earlier this month when Girdusky tweeted screenshots of messages Weaver allegedly sent to men who then shared them with Girdusky.
Girdusky said that several men reached out to him after Weaver followed him on Twitter last May.
‘Three young men DMed me and said, “please be careful, this is what he did to me,” and sent me their DMs with John Weaver,’ Girdusky said to the Washington Post.
‘When young men approached them they ignored it. When they heard I was working on the story they warned Weaver. When I wrote a story they said nothing. When Axios published a story they said he’s just gay Now he’s a predator. The Lincoln Project lied. They knew. They’re complicit,’ Girdusky tweeted Sunday.
The new report came two weeks after Weaver publicly admitted to sending inappropriate messages to men and stepped down from the super PAC.
The Lincoln Project said in their statement: ‘We extend our deepest sympathies to those who were targeted by his deplorable and predatory behavior. We are disgusted and outraged that someone in a position of power and trust would use it for these means.
‘The totality of his deceptions are beyond anything any of us could have imagined and we are absolutely shocked and sickened by it. Like so many, we have been betrayed and deceived by John Weaver.’
The statement concluded: ‘At no time was John Weaver in the physical presence of any member of the Lincoln Project.’
When approached by the Times, leaders at the Lincoln Project said they had been unaware of allegations against Weaver until recently, when those allegations started going viral on social media.
Co-founder Steve Schmidt said top brass had learned last summer that Weaver might be involved with men through social media posts.
But Schmidt added: ‘There was no awareness or insinuations of any type of inappropriate behavior when we became aware of the chatter at the time.’
In one message Weaver sent to a young man he wrote, ‘Help you other times. Give advice, counsel, help with bills. You help me … sensually,’ according to messages reviewed by the Times.
In another case, Weaver allegedly propositioned a boy beginning when he was 14 years old, asking questions about his body that escalated after he turned 18.
The allegations against Weaver grew in prominence after right-wing political commentator Ryan James Girdusky posted a cryptic tweet about the former aide
On Sunday Girdusky blasted the Lincoln Project for their statement disavowing Weaver, saying they knew about the allegations and did nothing about it
Weaver served as a top aide to Arizona Senator John McCain (pictured together in 2000)
Speaking to the Times, Cole Trickle Miele, now 19, recalled how Weaver followed him on Twitter out of the blue and sent him a direct message five years ago.
‘I remember being a 14-year-old kid interested in politics and being semi-starstruck by John Weaver engaging in a conversation with me,’ Trickle Miele said.
He said he didn’t think the contact was strange in the beginning – until Weaver’s messages grew more personal.
In messages from June 2018 reviewed by the Times, Weaver asked Trickle Miele: ‘Are you in HS [high school] still?’
When the teen said yes and that he was turning 18 the following spring, Weaver replied: ‘You look older. You’ve gotten taller.’
After Trickle Miele turned 18, Weaver messaged him in March 2020: ‘I want to come to Vegas and take you to dinner and drinks and spoil you!!’
In a follow-up message Weaver sought information about Trickle Miele’s body, writing: ‘Hey my boy! resend me your stats! or I can guess! if that is easier or more fun!’
Another accuser, 23-year-old Kyle Allen, said Weaver posed similar questions to him between 2016 to 2018, asking about his height, weight and whether he was circumcised.
Girdusky soon began sharing multiple shots of DMs he was sent by various people claiming they had received from Weaver
Others began posting their experiences too and soon Twitter was inundated with screenshots of DMs allegedly from Weaver
Allen told the Times that Weaver also repeatedly expressed a desire to visit him at the University of Ottawa, where he was studying.
‘I would try to veer the conversations toward politics, and he would always find a way to bring it back to sexual stuff,’ Allen said.
A third accuser, Cody Bralts, said he replied to one of Weaver’s tweets last year when he was looking for a job in politics after his college graduation.
Bralts said he was surprised when Weaver sent him a direct message. The pair struck up a conversation about politics, which Weaver soon segued into more personal areas, at one point asking what Bralts did in his free time.
When Bralts said he ran marathons, Weaver wrote back: ‘At least I know that whatever we end up doing, you could do it multiple times in a row’ – with a wink emoji, according to the Times.
‘It just seemed like he was exploiting his power,’ Bralts said. ‘He was someone very important and high up in a field I want to go into.’
At least two of the men who spoke to the Times said Weaver offered them jobs at the Lincoln Project – including 22-year-old Anthony Covell.
Covell said Weaver began messaging him in July 2019. Their contact stalled for a while until December 2019, when Weaver invited Covell to join his new initiative, which was announced as the Lincoln Project two weeks later.
‘He said he was looking for young people who were creative and invested in this upcoming election. I was obviously interested,’ Covell said.
But Covell decided against seeking more details about the project after Weaver asked him to ‘send me a pic’ and ‘post a thirst trap’ – a photo intended to entice viewers sexually on social media.
Weaver (left) is pictured with then-presidential candidate John McCain in 2006
‘Something inside me was saying: “No, don’t do this, he seems kind of sketchy,”‘ he said.
A former top aide for John McCain and John Kasich, Weaver addressed the allegations in a statement to Axios on January 15, in which the married father-of-two revealed that he is gay.
‘To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry,’ he wrote.
‘They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you.’
The apology was half-hearted, as Weaver suggested that his accusers were motivated by animosity toward the Lincoln Project.
‘While I am taking full responsibility for the inappropriate messages and conversations, I want to state clearly that the other smears being leveled at me by Donald Trump enablers as a way to get back at the Lincoln Project for our principled stand against democracy are categorically false and outrageous,’ he wrote.
Weaver, who took a medical leave of absence from the Lincoln Project last summer, told Axios he will not be returning to the prominent super PAC group following the allegations.
‘The project’s defense of the Republic and fight for democracy is vital,’ he wrote.
When approached by the Times with the latest allegations, Weaver reiterated his remarks from the letter.
‘I am so disheartened and sad that I may have brought discomfort to anyone in what I thought at the time were mutually consensual discussions,’ he said.
‘In living a deeply closeted life, I allowed my pain to cause pain for others. For that I am truly sorry to these men and everyone and for letting so many people down.’