Following reports on Tuesday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was about to be smeared by Trump’s allies in the media, the Special Counsel’s office has alerted the FBI to an alleged scheme to pay off women to fabricate sexual misconduct allegations against Mueller, as announced in a statement to journalists Tuesday. Natasha Bertrand, one of the reporters who received the statement, as well as the original email that brought the alleged scheme to the office’s attention, covered it today in The Atlantic.
“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,” said Peter Carr, a spokesperson for the Special Counsel’s office, in the statement.
The Special Counsel’s office was made aware of the purported scheme after several journalists were contacted by a woman claiming she had been offered money to make up sexual assault claims against Mueller and, today, has made the rare move of releasing a statement to reporters during an ongoing investigation. Since May 17, 2017, the office has been investigating foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, including possible coordination between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
Independent reporter Scott Stedman, who received the original email, posted about false allegations coming out against Mueller on Twitter early this morning.
In an email, a woman alleged that she was contacted by a GOP activist named Jack Burkman “to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller,” and added that she had worked for Mueller as a paralegal at the Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro law firm in 1974.
He “offered to pay off all of my credit card debt, plus bring me a check for $20,000 if I would do one thing,” the woman wrote.
Still, it’s unclear whether the whistleblower who wrote the original email actually exists, as Stedman has posted about receiving information that doesn’t correspond with their account.
Earlier, Stedman also said the woman in question was unwilling to get on the phone with journalists, which would make it difficult to corroborate her story.
Still, Stedman added that the man allegedly offering money “was extremely willing to confirm that he was indeed paying women to tell stories about Mueller” in an effort to discredit journalists working on the Trump-Russia story.
Meanwhile, Burkman, a conservative lobbyist and radio host, has been known to espouse conspiracy theories. In March, Burkman claimed he was nearly killed by someone he hired for his own investigation into the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, whom right-wing conspiracy theorists falsely claim was involved in the 2016 leaked DNC emails scandal. Burkman previously offered $25,000 to FBI whistleblowers in an attempt to prove the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.
Today, Burkman also posted a Facebook video, taken at a Starbucks outside of Arlington National Cemetery, in which he claims, “We will unveil the first of the sex assault victims of Robert Mueller.”
Burkman has denied knowing the woman who originally brought the story to journalists, but claimed in an email to The Atlantic’s Bertrand that “on Thursday 1200 NOON ROSSYLN HOLIDAY INN we will present a very credible witness who will allege that Mr. Mueller committed against her a sexual assault.”
A Twitter account purporting to be Burkman’s made similar claims about an alleged victim of sexual assault in a post today.
While we cannot yet verify the claims related to the alleged scheme, such an effort to discredit Mueller would certainly not be out of character for far-right conspiracy theorists, who have proven all too willing to concoct stories about the opposition without probing any of the deep issues on their own side.
More than 20 women have come forward to date with stories about President Trump’s inappropriate behavior, including allegations of sexual misconduct or assault, as per Business Insider. And of course, he and many of his administration’s supporters were willing to overlook very serious and credible allegations of sexual misconduct against now-Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh, claiming that these were “a hoax set up by the Democrats.”
Whether or not Mueller was indeed targeted by a scheme to plant fabricated sexual assault allegations, the concern about his possible victims seems highly unconvincing coming from the mouths of far-right conspiracy theorists who don’t otherwise care.