The FBI is investigating an apparent scheme to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller with false sexual harassment claims, a new report says.
Two women say they were offered money to make the claims, according to a report in The Atlantic on Tuesday. Both say they were approached by a company called Surefire Intelligence.
Several journalists notified the special counsel’s office about the plot after they received an email by a woman calling herself Lorraine Parsons. She said she had been offered $20,000 by Surefire Intelligence “to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller.” In a separate incident, Jennifer Taub, a professor at Vermont Law School, said she was approached over email about making false allegations, and she forwarded that email to the special counsel’s office earlier this month.
In her letter to the media, Parsons said she had worked for Mueller as a paralegal in 1974 and that “he was always very polite to me, and was never inappropriate.” This month she was contacted by a man with a British accent, who asked her to talk over the secure app Signal.
“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.'” Parsons wrote. She added that the man “offered to pay off all of my credit card debt, plus bring me a check for $20,000 … He knew exactly how much credit card debt I had, right down to the dollar, which sort of freaked me out.”
Taub was contacted by someone with a Surefire Intelligence email address at the same time, around Oct. 22, the Atlantic reports. The email she received read, in part, “My organization is conducting an examination of Robert Mueller’s past. Tell me a decent method to contact you by telephone (or Signal, which would be ideal) and a beginning rate to talk with you about all encounters you’ve had with Special Counsel Mueller. We would likewise pay you for any references that you may have. Lastly, I would appreciate your discretion here, as this is a very sensitive matter.”
Surefire Intelligence was incorporated less than three weeks ago, the Atlantic says. Its domain records include an email address for a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist, Jacob Wohl. On Twitter Tuesday morning, Wohl touted a “scandalous” Mueller story that would break on Wednesday.
The FBI is now looking into the case. “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 Mueller spokesman Peter Carr.