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Lincoln Project co-founder Steve Schmidt resigns

Steve Schmidt, co-founder of the anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project, announced Friday that he was resigning from the group's board.

Schmidt said in a statement posted to Twitter that he would step down "to make room for the appointment of a female board member as the first step to reform and professionalize the Lincoln Project."

The resignation comes as the anti-Trump GOP group faces growing scrutiny over its operation and handling of accusations against former co-founder John Weaver.

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Weaver has been accused over the past month of sending unsolicited sexual messages to numerous young men, including sending messages to a 14-year-old.

“I wish John Weaver was not a cofounder of the Lincoln Project, but as hard as I wish for that to be, I can’t change that he was,” Schmidt said. “I am enormously proud of the Lincoln Project and what we have accomplished to date.”

The group also drew scrutiny on Thursday night after its Twitter account posted screenshots of private messages between former member Jennifer Horn and Amanda Becker, a reporter for The 19th News. The screenshots were later deleted.

"That direct message should never have been made public. It is my job as the senior leader to accept responsibility for the tremendous misjudgment to release it," Schmidt said in his statement Friday.

“I apologize on behalf of the organization and Amanda Becker,” he added.

Weaver last month acknowledged sending what he called "inappropriate" sexual messages to young men and apologized. The Lincoln Project and other founding members have since sought to distance themselves from him.

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The group announced on Thursday that it hired an outside group to review Weaver’s tenure, and said it wouldn’t comment on the allegations until the investigation is complete. 

The announcement came as The New York Times reported that six former staffers sent an open letter to the group demanding to be released from non-disclosure agreements so they can provide information “that would aid the press, public and our donors in answering questions relevant to the public interest.”

In addition, The Associated Press reported that more than $50 million of the $90 million that the group has raised has gone to firms controlled by its leaders. The news service, citing an analysis from ad tracking firm Kantar/CMAG, reported that roughly $27 million paid for advertisements that aired during the 2020 presidential election.

A longtime GOP strategist, Schmidt worked on the presidential campaign of late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFormer Trump Defense chief Esper to join McCain Institute We need an independent 1/6 commission that the whole country can have confidence in GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra MORE (R-Ariz.) in 2008, and on former President George W. Bush’s campaign in 2004. He’s been a fierce critic of former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout MORE.

Schmidt announced in December that he was registering as a Democrat after spending roughly two years as an independent.