Washington (AFP) - The FBI 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, Mueller's office said Tuesday.
The scheme was uncovered after one 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.
Mueller is a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who was tasked last year with investigating allegations that members of President Donald Trump's campaign team colluded with Russia to sway the 2016 election.
Mueller's 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 Hill Reporter news website said the scheme surfaced last week after they and several other outlets were contacted by an anonymous woman saying she had been offered cash to make allegations against Mueller.
The woman -- who has since disappeared -- said in an email to several reporters that the person who contacted her claimed to work for Republican lobbyist and right-wing radio host Jack Burkman, the Hill Reporter said.
On October 20, Burkman announced on his Facebook page that he had explosive evidence showing Mueller is an alcoholic, and had seven women who claimed they had been harassed by Mueller, dating back four decades or more.