Special counsel asks FBI to investigate conspiracy against Mueller

The Office of the Special Counsel investigating the 2016 election has asked the FBI to investigate whether women have been offered money to make claims of sexual harassment against Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel's office, told The Hill in an email: "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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A spokesman for the FBI declined to comment, citing the bureau's practice of not confirming or denying conducting particular investigations.

The referral was first reported by HillReporter.com.

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Mueller's office confirmed that they learned of the scheme from several journalists who were approached by a woman who said she had been offered $20,000 to make sexual assault allegations against Mueller, The Atlantic reported.

The unnamed woman in a recent email to multiple journalists wrote that a man who said he worked for GOP activist Jack Burkman asked her “to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller” in exchange for the money. 

Burkman in a tweet Tuesday said he would be holding an event on Thursday in a Virginia suburb with the first woman to make an allegation against Mueller.

"I applaud the courage and dignity and grace and strength of my client," wrote Burkman, who hosts a conservative radio and TV talk show on Newsmax. 

The D.C. lobbyist had previously gained attention for his work on a conspiracy theory involving Seth Rich, a young staffer for the Democratic National Committee who was killed in what D.C. police concluded was a robbery in 2016. Burkman theorized without evidence that Rich had been killed by a Russian hit squad.

Rich's parents distanced themselves from Burkman and said that people conducting their own investigations into the unsolved crime were not helping anyone.

In her email, the woman says the man who said he worked for Burkman offered to pay her $20,000.  

"[The man] 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 in an email obtained by The Atlantic. “In more of an effort to get him to go away than anything else, I asked him what in the hell he wanted me to do." 

"He said that we could not talk about it on the phone, and he asked me to download an app on my phone called Signal, which he said was more secure," she continued. "Reluctantly, I downloaded the app and he called me on that app a few minutes later. 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.’ ”

Journalist Yashar Ali posted a screenshot of the email, which he said he received 13 days ago, on Twitter.

Burkman in a statement to The Atlantic said he does not know the women who told journalists about the alleged scheme.

"On Thursday 1200 NOON ROSSLYN HOLIDAY INN we will present a very credible witness who will allege that Mr. Mueller committed against her a sexual assault,” Burkman wrote in the statement.

Ed Krassenstein of HillReporter.com, who first reported about the alleged scheme, told NBC News that he thinks pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl might be involved as well.

While Krassenstein was reporting on the story, he says he received a phone call from a man claiming to be from a company called "Surefire Intelligence." Burkman told Krassenstein that Wohl runs "Surefire Intelligence," which has a small online footprint.

Wohl's email address is listed in the domain records for the company’s website, according to NBC News. The number listed on Surefire's website appears to be associated with Wohl's mother.

A second woman told The Atlantic on Tuesday that she alerted the special counsel's office to an email she received from a man associated with Surefire Intelligence.

Jennifer Taub, an associate professor at Vermont Law School and occasional CNN commentator, forwarded The Atlantic an October email she received from a man using a Surefire Intelligence email address.

"It's my understanding that you may have had some past encounters with Robert Mueller,” the man wrote, according to the magazine. “I would like to discuss those encounters with you. My organization is conducting an examination of Robert Mueller's past."

"We would likewise pay you for any references that you may have," he added.

Taub said she alerted Mueller's office immediately.

Wohl, who is a contributor to the right-wing website The Gateway Pundit, denied knowing about the alleged scheme in messages to the HillReporter.com and NBC.

Earlier on Tuesday, Wohl tweeted “Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!” Around the same time, the Gateway Pundit published an article alleging Mueller as being accused of rape by a "very credible witness." 

"To me, this was all a setup from somebody trying to discredit the media," Krassenstein said to NBC. 

— Morgan Chalfant contributed reporting

Updated: 5:30 p.m.