The office of the special counsel has referred a plot to falsely accuse Robert Mueller of sexual misconduct to the FBI after recently receiving word of the scheme from several journalists.
Law&Crime reported earlier on Tuesday that unknown figures were apparently trying to smear Mueller with the accusations based on a tweet thread by independent investigative journalist Scott Stedman. After Stedman authored several posts on the subject, multiple other journalists confirmed various aspects of the story and offered further insight.
This afternoon, Mueller’s office addressed the nature of the false allegation story and said that the matter had been referred to the FBI. In a statement, special counsel spokesperson Peter Carr said:
When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation.
The Atlantic‘s Natasha Bertrand, who has written several expansive pieces on various aspects of the Mueller probe, was one of the first journalists to confirm the attempted smear campaign.
In a report published this afternoon, Bertrand identified the alleged culprit as Republican Party activist Jack Burkman.
Bertrand’s report offers a bit of background on the alleged plotter:
Burkman, a conservative radio host, is known for spreading conspiracy theories. He launched his own private investigation into the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, dangled uncorroborated claims of sexual harassment against a sitting member of Congress, and earlier this year offered $25,000 to FBI whistleblowers for any information exposing wrongdoing during the 2016 election.
In an email to Bertrand, Burkman denied the allegations. He said the alleged conspiracy was “a joke, mueller [sic] wants to deflect attention from his sex assault troubles by attacking me.”
After Bertrand’s story was posted, the plot thickened a bit more.
A woman who says she was approached by a man named Bill, “who had a British accent,” and who claimed to work for Burkman, sent an email detailing the scheme to several reporters in recent days.
According to the woman, during a phone call, Bill inquired about her time spent working with Mueller as a paralegal at a private law firm–Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro–in 1974. The woman said that Bill promised to help her “pay off some debt” and apparently cited the amount of credit card debt she owed “right down to the dollar.”
“I told him I wasn’t interested in whatever he was looking for and I hung up the phone and didn’t think about it anymore,” the woman’s email notes.
That email continues, in relevant part:
Two days later, Bill called again. He told me “I’m just going to cut straight to the Chase…” He then offered to pay off all of my credit card debt, plus bring me a check for $20,000 if I would do one thing. In more of an effort to get him to go away than anything else, I asked him what in the hell he wanted me to do. He said that we could not talk about it on the phone, and he asked me to download an app on my phone called Signal, which he said was more secure. Reluctantly, I downloaded the app and he called me on that app a few minutes later. He said (and I will never forget exactly what it was) “I want you to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller, and I want you to sign a sworn affidavit to that effect.”
[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]