'Never Trump' group planning $40 million war chest for fall campaign

Michael Isikoff
·Chief Investigative Correspondent
·3 mins read

A group of “Never Trump” Republicans has lined up “some large financial backers” and is planning on spending up to $40 million to help defeat President Trump and elect a Democratic Senate this fall, one of the organization’s top strategists said.

John Weaver, once a senior adviser to Sen. John McCain, declined to identify the major donors who have agreed to help bankroll his anti-Trump Republican group, the Lincoln Project.

But in an interview on the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery,” Weaver said the group has formed a super-PAC — thereby allowing it to collect donations unlimited in size — and is developing grassroots organizations in battleground states to advance its goal of evicting Trump from the White House and stripping Sen. Mitch McConnell of his position as majority leader.

“Our goal is to try to move enough disaffected Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in key Electoral College states to help the Democratic nominee win the election and to assist in the defeat of the president’s enablers in the Senate,” Weaver said on the podcast.

He spoke shortly after the Lincoln Project released a hard-hitting online ad, called “A Virus in the World,” which skewers Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s a virus in the world,” a narrator says amid shots of empty medical labs and hospital rooms. “For some people, the virus is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. ... Since there are those who still can’t see it, wouldn’t it be smart to tell the truth about the virus — since there is a virus?” The camera shot then dissolves into a photo of Trump.

Weaver said he and Rick Wilson, another veteran GOP strategist turned Never Trumper, based the ad on the famous “Bear in the Woods” commercial used by President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign. The ad implied that Democrats were oblivious to the threat of Soviet communism.

Asked if it was appropriate for the group to be attacking the president on the virus issue in the midst of a national public health emergency, Weaver said it was Trump, not the Never Trumpers, who is injecting politics into every aspect of American life.

A screengrab from the Lincoln Project's new online ad "A Virus in the World." (YouTube)
A screengrab from the Lincoln Project's new online ad "A Virus in the World." (YouTube)

Download or subscribe on iTunes: “Skullduggery” from Yahoo News

“Just a few days ago, his campaign sent out a tweet calling Joe Biden a dead corpse,” Weaver said. “He’s divided this country in a terrible way. … Yes, we need to do the right thing and come together in a bipartisan fashion. But we also have to deal with this other virus that is impacting the country in such a negative way.”

He defined that “other virus” as “Trumpism.”

Weaver and Wilson are among a number of prominent Republicans — along with Steve Schmidt, a former aide to President George W. Bush, and George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway — who formed the Lincoln Project after spending much of the last few years attacking the president on Twitter or cable TV.

But while most, if not all, of them still insist they adhere to traditional Republican principles, Weaver said the group has no compunction about devoting its efforts to elect a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate.

“Look, the Republican Party as I knew it … doesn’t exist anymore,” Weaver said. “It’s become a cult. … I have a hope that if they lose almost everything, perhaps there is some hope that a different center-right party within the GOP can emerge.”

But until that happens, Republican members of Congress who continue to back the president need to understand “there is a price for that,” he said.

“And if that means there will be a Democratic Senate for two years or four years, so be it.”

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