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Ex-Lincoln Project employees demand release from NDAs to discuss co-founder’s behavior

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Six former employees at the anti-Trump Republican group the Lincoln Project went after its leaders Thursday night, demanding to be released from their nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) so they can talk openly about John Weaver, a now-departed co-founder who has been accused of sexually harassing young men.

The organization, amid receiving massive criticism for the allegations against Weaver, announced Thursday night that it would be hiring an outside investigator to review his tenure at the Lincoln Project.

Leaders of the Lincoln Project say that they were unaware of Weaver’s conduct until recent reports detailed these allegations.

RELATED: Karl Rove says he’s known of Lincoln Project co-founder’s behavior ‘since 1988’

In an open letter published by The New York Times, the six unnamed former employees and associates asked that their NDAs be waved, saying that they wanted to be allowed to disclose information “that would aid the press, public and our donors in answering questions relevant to the public interest.”

“Tonight, in light of recent events, news reports and statements from the Lincoln Project, we call on the remaining leadership of the Lincoln Project to release us all and all others from all Non-Disclosure Agreements (or other contracts), without precondition, regarding (a) harassment perpetuated by John Weaver that we have experienced or witnessed (b) knowledge of harassment of others by John Weaver (c) any other information specific to the John Weaver situation that would aid the press, public and our donors in questions relevant to the public interest, and to the interests of the Lincoln Project’s many loyal fans and small donors,” the letter reads.

“Recently published stories about the Lincoln Project are filled with inaccuracies, incorrect information, and reliant exclusively on anonymous sources,” the Lincoln Project said in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday night. “However, there is a central truth in all of them that must be reckoned with and that is John Weaver’s appalling conduct and the abuse he inflicted on people.”

Thus, the organization announced, that it would be retaining a “best-in-class outside professional to review Mr. Weaver’s tenure with the organization and to establish both accountability and best practices going forward for the Lincoln Project.”

At the end of its statement, the Lincoln Project emphasized that “any person who believes they are unable to talk about John Weaver publicly because they are bound by an NDA, should contact the Lincoln Project for a release.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”

Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.

RELATED: ‘Let’s play strip poker’: Fmr. Cuomo aide accuses NY governor of sexual harassment

Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.

At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.

RELATED: De Blasio ‘sickened’ by Cuomo sexual harassment claims

“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”

“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”

This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”

RELATED: Cuomo responds to sexual harassment claims, saying he ‘may have been insensitive’

During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.

“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”

“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”

Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.

RELATED: ‘Eat the whole sausage: Gov. Cuomo in hot water for resurfaced video

Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.

“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”

Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.

“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”

He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.

Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”

“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.

MORE ON CUOMO: NY dem says state legislature is ‘inching toward’ Cuomo impeachment probe

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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