Since the first news broke about Lincoln Project co-founder John Weaver sexting young men and using his position to groom young men who wanted to have a career in politics, Weaver’s fellow Lincoln Project co-founders have claimed ignorance of Weaver’s activities in a statement disavowing him. George Conway even took to MSNBC to claim that he “didn’t know [Weaver] very well” and was surprised as everyone else was when the news came out.
When one victim called BS on those claims, saying he’d approached co-founder Mike Madrid about his experience with Weaver and had been rebuffed, the group was silent. Now, the Washington Blade says it has reviewed electronic communications between one young man and Madrid, and internal electronic communications discussing how to respond after a New York Post inquiry in August 2020.
These electronic messages, which date back to August 2020 and include Lincoln Project co-founder Mike Madrid, showed that leadership was made aware of allegations about Weaver from reporters who were investigating it, and had begun discussions of how to respond to any fallout.
The initial alerts came to the attention of the Lincoln Project in early August in the form of inquiries about Weaver from the New York Post. The inquiries, three sources familiar with the New York Post story say, were part of an investigation into Weaver’s inappropriate messages to male youths, and brought to the attention of Madrid.
Around that time Weaver had a heart attack and stepped back from his role with the Lincoln Project to focus on his health, which the Blade confirmed with people close to Weaver’s family, and the New York Post didn’t publish a story. Then, there was a second media inquiry:
Weeks later in August, another reporter made inquiries regarding Weaver, which Madrid discussed in internal communications. Keith Edwards, who was working at the time with the Lincoln Project as communications director, was named in the discussion as playing a role in the strategy for the response to the potential story.
No further action was taken, one source familiar with the internal communications said. It’s not clear what the exact nature of the story was other than Weaver in the aftermath of him taking medical leave.
The Blade isn’t publishing the messages they reviewed to protect the confidentiality of sources.
The electronic messages the Blade reviewed were between Madrid and one of the young men Weaver was texting. That source said the exchanges with Weaver were consensual. The Blade has not seen any evidence that Madrid alerted any other Lincoln Project leaders other than then-communications director Edwards to media inquiries into Weaver.
Madrid didn’t respond to inquiries directed to his firm, Grassroots Labs, about the communications. Edwards, who now works for Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), said:
“I cannot comment on an email you refuse to show me about a story that was not written by the New York Post. Period.”
Hmm. How many emails was he sent about stories that weren’t written by the New York Post?
Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt told the Blade last week that the group had never received a “formal request” by any media outlet for comment on Weaver’s texts and:
[D]enied the Lincoln Project had “any knowledge of any misconduct by John Weaver” until January.
“This story never published,” Schmidt said, referring to the New York Post article. “And there was never an interrogatory put on the record, to my knowledge, to the organization by the New York Post.”
But, Schmidt admitted to the Blade that he had heard rumors that Weaver was gay for years but attributed it to a rivalry between Weaver and Karl Rove. He also told the Blade that the “chatter” the group uncovered was contained in “pro-Trump 4chan and 8chan message boards,” but none of the chatter mentioned Weaver sending inappropriate texts. Still, Schmidt claims, he called Weaver in July to ask about the subject:
“Is there any public information that’s out there that’s evidence-based that there’s an allegation that Weaver engaged in any predatory conduct, any misconduct? There is not,” Schmidt said. “Do I have some duty to inform if John Weaver had said to us in our conversation: “I’m a closeted gay man”? He’s 62, years old, right? Do I have any duty to inform anybody? And the answer to that question is emphatically I do not.”
“What I said specifically to him is there anything you need to tell us, right?” Schmidt recalled. “He said, ‘Absolutely not. It’s all bullshit. Full stop on that. Period.”
Clearly, if that conversation occurred, Weaver lied to Schmidt. If, as Conway claims, no one knew Weaver that well, would Schmidt honestly expect Weaver to just open up and admit what he was doing? Whether one considers the Lincoln Project a business or a political venture, ask yourself: If you found information that one of your business partners was leading a double life, would you not look into what was going on even if your partner denied it?
Back to the electronic communications reviewed by the Blade. If those communications between one victim and Madrid, and between Madrid and Edwards, are authenticated, that shoots a massive hole in the credibility of the Lincoln Project’s denials. Oh, but Schmidt has an answer for that, too. While Madrid’s Grassroots Labs was paid more than $2 million by the Lincoln Project between December 2019 and January 2021:
Schmidt downplayed Madrid’s role in the organization, saying he was “not part of the map” with Lincoln Project, even though Madrid identifies as a co-founder.
“Mike isn’t the spokesperson,” Schmidt said. “Mike isn’t the communications person, Mike isn’t the leader. Mike’s not making decisions.”
Asked about the electronic communications related to media inquiries about Weaver that included Madrid, Schmidt said Madrid never ran anything “up the chain of command.”
Madrid isn’t the spokesperson or the communications person, true. That position belonged to Keith Edwards at the time, the person to whom Madrid allegedly had communicated with about the New York Post’s inquiry and discussed how to respond. Is he the leader or making decisions? Who knows. A number of people self-identified as a co-founder, but more importantly, Madrid was listed alongside the other co-founders on the Lincoln Project’s website and appeared in numerous interviews with the other co-founders.
In earlier coverage of this scandal we reported that Karl Rove made accusations about Weaver back in 2004 and that he knew about Weaver’s “pattern of behavior” starting in 1988, suggesting that Weaver had a reputation in the political consulting/activist community. After the first series of accusations came out in early January via political writer Ryan Girdusky, it strains credulity to believe that none of Weaver’s Lincoln Project co-founders ever had a suspicion or heard a thing about his behavior. The Blade spoke to some Republican insiders on just that topic (emphasis added):
Republican insiders who spoke to the Blade bolstered the Times reporting with stories about Weaver’s reputation for inappropriate messages, and indicated Weaver’s behavior was well known in recent years. One Republican insider not affiliated with the Lincoln Project said he received a text in 2016 warning Weaver had a history of sending “creepy” texts to younger gay men.
One strategist who said he received sexual solicitations from Weaver said he knew him at first in a professional capacity. At that time, the strategist said Weaver did nothing to suggest he had an interest in men, let alone an interest in the strategist in particular. But several years after they met, the strategist said he received Twitter messages from Weaver and he made comments that were “unwanted, but strange.”
“He never offered me like a quid pro quo, or a job,” the strategist said. “That was never even part of a conversation. It was just very weird.”
Asked if anything sexually explicit came up, the strategist said Weaver “had a lot of questions about my sex life.” The strategist said he “danced around the conversation, of course, because, well, for professional purposes.”
And right there you have a classic example of “grooming” behavior, whether it’s from an older, predatory man (or woman) aimed at someone much younger, or from one adult in a position of influence attempting to seduce a less influential colleague. The Twitter messages the strategist describes as “unwanted, but strange” were likely a shot across the bow to see if the strategist might be interested in what Weaver had to offer, and by “danc[ing] around the conversation” the strategist was low-key shooting Weaver down while attempting to maintain a good relationship to keep possible professional options open. It’s disgusting behavior on Weaver’s part but, unfortunately, not rare at all in politics or in business.
At this point the remaining members of the Lincoln Project should come out and admit when they knew and deal with the fallout, because judging by the speed at which revelations are occurring and the number of people who have information, it won’t be long until receipts are produced.