Mueller thinks he was target of a right-wing smear: "Women were offered money to make false claims"

The special counsel investigating President Trump referred a Seth Rich conspiracy theorist to the FBI

By Matthew Rozsa

Published October 30, 2018 2:59PM (EDT)

Robert Mueller (Getty/Saul Loeb)
Robert Mueller (Getty/Saul Loeb)

Special counsel Robert Mueller says that he is the target of a smear campaign by a conservative commentator who he accuses of trying to pay women to falsely accuse him of sexual assault.

"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," Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, told CNBC in a statement.

The individual accused of drumming up the false accusations is conservative commentator Jack Burkman, a man who has repeatedly called for Trump to fire Mueller for investigating alleged connections between his presidential campaign and the Russian government, and who is best known for baselessly suggesting that young Democratic staffer Seth Rich was murdered in 2016 by a Russian hit squad.

On Thursday Burkman tweeted that he had "some sad news. On Thursday, November 1, at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn at noon, we will reveal the first of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's sex assault victims. I applaud the courage and dignity and grace and strength of my client." He also posted a Facebook video on Tuesday which claimed that "Robert Mueller is a bad guy not just because of what he does inside the courtroom, but because of what he does outside the courtroom."

According to CNBC's reporting:

The special counsel's office confirmed to CNBC that it learned about the "scheme" from journalists who had been approached by a woman alleging that she had been offered $20,000 by Burkman "to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller."

If Mueller was indeed targeted by Burkman for false accusations, that would seem to fulfill the consequences which Republicans ominously hinted might occur in the aftermath of sexual misconduct accusations made against some of their preferred political figures. Last year right-wing con artist James O'Keefe unsuccessfully attempted to embarrass The Washington Post into accepting a fabricated sexual misconduct story against then-Senate candidate Roy Moore, although he failed when the Post saw through his ruse.

Last month, during a contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Brett Kavanaugh warned Democrats who drew attention an accusation of attempted rape by Christine Blasey Ford that "your coordinated and well-funded effort to destroy my good name and to destroy my family will not drive me out" and "what goes around comes around," according to The Washington Post. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., made a similar threat, stating to reporters during the Kavanaugh hearing, "Let me tell my Democratic friends. If this is the new norm, you’d better watch out for your nominees."

According to a Morning Consult poll taken last month, 57 percent of Americans are equally concerned about "young women and the sexual harassment or assault they could face" and "young men and the false allegations of sexual harassment or assault they could face." Seventeen percent said they were primarily concerned about female victims and 15 percent said they were primarily concerned about men, although Democrats, in general, were more likely to be concerned about women and Republicans, in general, were more likely to be concerned about men. It is unclear how many rape accusations are proven to be false (it is also unclear whether Mueller was going to be accused of rape or sexual assault), although studies generally put the number somewhere between 2 percent and 10 percent.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Brett Kavanaugh Donald Trump Jack Burkman Lindsey Graham #metoo Robert Mueller