The apparent plot to bring down Robert Mueller by bribing women to make false sexual misconduct claims against him appears to have fallen apart, after emails revealed startling details about the conspiracy.
On Tuesday, Jennifer Taub, an associate professor at Vermont Law School, made public an email she received earlier this month in which the sender asked to speak to her regarding “past encounters” with Mr Mueller, who is investigating possible election collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“I would like to discuss those encounters with you,” the email read. “I believe a basic telephone call, for which I would compensate you at whatever rate you see fit (inside reason), would be a good place to start. My organization is conducting an examination of Robert Mueller’s past.”
The letter, which Ms Taub forwarded on to the special counsel, came from someone claiming to be an employee at a purported private intelligence firm called Surefire Intelligence.
Ms Taub told MSNBC she had "no idea" why the "creepy" email was sent to her, but that she did not know and had never met Mr Mueller.
Her disclosure of the message came after Mr Mueller’s office announced – in a rare public statement – that it had asked the FBI to probe allegations another woman was offered $20,000 to make false accusations against the investigator.
Mr Mueller’s team were made aware of the allegations by several journalists, who received emails by someone who said she was called Lorraine Parsons. She claimed she used to work with Mr Mueller at law firm Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro in the 1970s.
13 days ago I received this tip alleging an attempt to pay off women to make up accusations of sexual misconduct against Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Other reporters received the same email. Now the Special Counsel's office is telling us they've referred the matter to the FBI pic.twitter.com/oqh4Fnel5u
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) October 30, 2018
In the email, which has been made public, the woman said she was offered $20,000 to make false sexual assault allegations by a man who said he worked for Surefire Intelligence. The man also offered to pay off her credit card debts, the email claimed.
“I asked him what in the hell he wanted me to do,” the email read. “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.
“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'.
“He said that he could arrange an additional $10,000 bonus from his client, who he said was a man named Jack Burkman, if I could sign the documents immediately.”
Jack Burkman matches the name of a right-wing conspiracy theorist and prominent Trump supporter, who claims he is about the make public the testimony of a woman alleging Mr Mueller sexually assaulted her.
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. pic.twitter.com/wZVQeHD45r
— Jack Burkman (@Jack_Burkman) October 30, 2018
“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,” Mr Burkman wrote on Twitter. “I applaud the courage and dignity and grace and strength of my client.”
In her email, Ms Parsons added that Mr Mueller was “always very polite” and “was never inappropriate" during their alleged time together at the law firm, and that she would not be part of a “Washington DC drama for any price”.
However, Ms Parsons’ identity could not be verified, and she refused to speak to reporters by phone. The law firm, Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro, also said it had no records of her having worked there.
When the Hill Reporter rang a phone number the woman had provided, it reported it received a text message back that read, “You’re in over your head…. Drop this”, alongside the home addresses of journalists working there.
The news outlet also said it later received a phone call from another number claiming to be a Surefire employee called Mike Wilcox. He allegedly told journalists there to “stop communicating with” Ms Parsons.
The identity of Ms Taub, however, is not in doubt and like Ms Parsons’ allegations, the email she received also purportedly came from a Surefire employee.
Surefire Intelligence, which purports to specialise in counter-intelligence, asset tracing and “in depth due diligence”, claims to have offices in the US, UK, Switzerland and London.
However, when The Independent attempted to contact the company's offices in London, Tel Aviv and Zurich, all failed to ring through.
NBC News reported domain records for the company – which was incorporated less than three weeks ago – are associated with the email address of Jacob Wohl, a far-right Twitter conspiracy theorist best known for his rapid responses to Mr Trump’s tweets and his penchant for visiting hipster coffee shops.
I was in a hipster coffee shop (safe space) here in LA and the libs were whispering to each other how @realDonaldTrump is doing great for the economy, got them a raise at work and will definitely be re-elected in 2020
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) January 13, 2018
Mr Wohl, who has also touted a “scandalous story” about Mr Mueller in recent days, has repeatedly denied involvement with Surefire Intelligence, despite the fact his picture appears on the LinkedIn page of the firm’s alleged managing partner, Matthew Cohen.
One of the company’s phone numbers also redirected to the voicemail of Mr Wohl’s mother, while LinkedIn profiles of a number of alleged Surefire employees use images of a host of models and celebrity actors.
Surefire Intelligence's "Head of Government Relations" also works as a model for stock photos. pic.twitter.com/2mQgQFTweT
— Aric Toler (@AricToler) October 30, 2018
On Tuesday, right-wing news outlet The Gateway Pundit, for whom Mr Wohl writes for, published allegations of sexual assault “on or around” 2 August 2010 by Mr Mueller, citing documents from a firm with the tagline “International Private Intelligence” – the same tagline used by Surefire Intelligence.
Gateway Pundit later deleted the story, issuing an update that they were “investigating” accusations regarding the veracity of the documents, and “very serious allegations” against Jacob Wohl.
It is not clear exactly what those behind Surefire Intelligence are trying to achieve, but the bogus firm appears to be responsible for both the allegations against Mr Mueller, and at least one email attempting to muddy the waters.
Despite the plot's apparent disintegration, both Mr Wohl and Mr Burkman insist a press conference on 1 November in which sexual misconduct allegations will be made against Mr Mueller is going ahead.
Mr Wohl and Mr Burkman have been contacted for comment.