Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation took a surprising twist on Tuesday as his spokesman, in a rare statement, said the Special Counsel’s office has referred to the FBI allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about him.
At the center of this story, at least for now, is a lobbyist named Jack Burkman, who also does a podcast and video show with paid placement on Newsmax. He’s already known in D.C. media circles as the man who has promoted a conspiracy theory about the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and launched his own investigation.
Burkman denied to Variety that he was behind a scheme to pay women money, and said that “neither I nor anybody associated with me paid women to do anything.” “We didn’t pay anyone,” he said.
He has scheduled a press conference at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn on Thursday, when he says a woman will claim that Mueller sexually assaulted her after first meeting in August 2010. He announced the press conference on Twitter, and in a Facebook video in which he said that there will be “more to come.”
Mueller’s office denies the allegations. Peter Carr, spokesman for the office, 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.”
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According to The Atlantic, Mueller’s office was contacted by several journalists who said that they were contacted by a woman who identified herself as Lorraine Parsons, and that she had been offered $20,000 by a man who said he worked for firm called Surefire Intelligence, which had been retained by Burkman, to make allegations of sexual misconduct against Mueller. The Atlantic reported that another woman, Jennifer Taub, contacted Mueller’s office earlier this month with similar information.
Journalist Yashar Ali said he got a copy of the email and posted it on Twitter.
Burkman declined to say whether he retained Surefire Intelligence, adding that he does not comment on decisions about staffing. Surefire Intelligence describes itself as a private intelligence agency, and a number of outlets have reported on the connections of the firm to Jacob Wohl, who also has been promoting a coming Mueller scandal. Among other things, a phone number on the firm’s site goes to Wohl’s mother.
The right-wing site The Gateway Pundit published what it said were documents of the sexual misconduct accusation against Mueller, but later pulled them.
“Earlier today we were given information on accusations against former FBI Director Robert Mueller. We took the documents down and are currently investigating these accusations. There are also serious allegations against Jacob Wohl. We are also looking into this.”
“There is still a press conference scheduled for Thursday at noon in Washington, D.C.”
Wohl, who is a writer for Gateway Pundit, reacted on Twitter by using the often used phrase of President Trump: Fake news.
“I’ve counted more than 25 news outlets who have reported allegations against me, claiming that I offered to pay women to make accusations against Mueller I’ve looked into this ‘Lorraine Parsons’! Looks like she doesn’t even exist! IT’S A FAKE NEWS CON JOB!” he wrote.
Bellingcat, the open source site which investigates online presences, deconstructed the Surefire Intelligence site and found that many of those listed as employees at the firm use stolen photos in LinkedIn profiles.
Just as murky is Parsons. Her identity has not been independently confirmed, and the law firm where she said she worked in the mid-1970s, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, told NBC News that they have no record of her.
The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand, however, spoke to Taub, who did forward an email from a man using a Surefire Intelligence email address who wrote, “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.”
Burkman now questions whether the women who claim they were offered payment even exist. He insists that “no payment was offered by me or anyone associated by me,” he said.
“The other thing for Mueller — it is not a crime to do that unless someone were part of a proceeding” in court or before Congress, he said. “That is something to bear in mind,” he added.
Burkman’s show, called “Behind the Curtain” is described as a “weekly journey to pursue the truth and expose the dark secrets of K Street.” It airs on Radio America Network, and Burkman said that it is simulcast in 150 markets.
Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax, said that he has “no official relationship With Newsmax, he buys paid programming… We do not share his views on this matter.”
Burkman, however, wrote on Twitter that “the left is trying to defend Mueller against sex assault allegations so they attack me in desperation. The establishment media knows that Mueller may go down over this — they want to deflect attention.”