WASHINGTON - The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating an alleged scheme to pay women to accuse Russia collusion probe chief Robert Mueller of sexual harassment in a bid to discredit him, his office said Tuesday.
The scheme was uncovered after a woman who said she worked for Mueller decades ago told several journalists she had been offered $20,000 to accuse him of sexual misconduct.
“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,” Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, said.
Carr did not offer any additional details, but his rare public statement made clear that Mueller’s office was taking the claims seriously.
When a matter is referred to the FBI, the agency must investigate the merits of the complaint.
Carr’s statement came on the same day that a conservative radio and podcast host known for promoting conspiracy theories, Jack Burkman, announced plans to “unveil the first of the sex assault victims of Robert Mueller” on Thursday.
Mueller is a former FBI director tasked last year with investigating allegations that members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election in his favor.
The probe has expanded to examine possible attempts by Trump himself to obstruct the investigation, which could — if proven — lead to the president’s impeachment.
The former Marine has a spotless reputation as an attorney, federal prosecutor and FBI chief. So far, his probe has issued 35 indictments and obtained six guilty pleas and one trial conviction.
But Trump and Republicans have labeled his investigation as biased and overextended, with Trump branding it the “illegal Mueller witch hunt.”
News of the alleged smear scheme came just one week before midterm congressional elections in which Mueller’s investigation casts a cloud over Republicans.
The Hill Reporter website said the scheme surfaced after they and several other news outlets were contacted by an anonymous woman saying she had been offered cash by a man to make allegations against Mueller.
She told the reporters in an email sent on Oct. 18 that a man offered her $20,000 and would pay off her large credit card debt to do so, according to the Hill Reporter.
“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,” she quoted the man as saying.
The woman — who has since been unreachable — said that the person who contacted her claimed to work for Burkman, the Hill Reporter said.
Burkman first claimed to have evidence of Mueller misbehavior, including alcoholism and sexual assault, on Oct. 20, two days after the mysterious woman emailed the reporters.
Burkman hosts a podcast on NewsmaxTV, part of the Newsmax Media group led by Chris Ruddy, a close Trump confidant.
“Robert Mueller has done bad things to a number of women,” he alleged.