Eric Smith / Flickr Robert Mueller x27 s Criminal Past...
Eric Smith / Flickr

Republican lobbyist and mudslinger extraordinaire Jack Burkman is targeting Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That much is clear. What’s ambiguous is the extent to which Burkman is involved in a complex campaign that, on its face, seems an ill-designed effort to pay women to accuse Mueller of sexual harassment. Questions surrounding Burkman’s legal vulnerability are expanding as quickly as the saga itself.

One “Lorraine Parsons” sent multiple reporters and media personalities an email alleging that she’d been called by a British-accented man purportedly working for Burkman with an offer to pay her and cover her debt in exchange for claiming Mueller sexually harassed her.

No one has been able to confirm Parsons’s existence or her claim that she worked with Mueller at a law firm. Two recipients of “her” email, the Krassenstein brothers—Twitter-famous Trump critics—attempted to follow up, calling a number for the man who ostensibly called Parsons. They claim to have gotten texts in return as well as a call from a man who identified himself as Mike Wilcox of Surefire Intelligence, all to discourage them from pursuing the Parsons claim.

A second woman, Jennifer Taub, who teaches at Vermont Law School, received an email from a Surefire Intelligence account alluding to a similar deal: cash in exchange for dishing on Mueller. Never having met Mueller, she forwarded the email to his office.

Mueller has asked the FBI to investigate these claims. Just as any decent person, especially any wrongfully accused person, would.

Burkman has held a press conference at the Holiday Inn before—when he was making outrageous claims about the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich, contrary to the Rich family’s wishes. Not to be deterred, Fox News regurgitated his conspiracy theories; as a result, the Rich family sued them.

Burkman is once again exposing himself to liability. This time, he’s encroaching on fact-based defamatory claims about Mueller (as distinguished from expressions of opinion). He’s also making statements that are almost certainly factually untrue if not directly defamatory.

“It’s the same body that was investigating Seth [Rich]. We received a tip and we’ve been investigating for six months. We’ve come up with a universe of five girls and the first is willing to come forth Thursday,” Burkman, who runs his own conservative radio station, told Newsweek. “We do have a woman coming forth on Thursday, a very credible woman, who is going to allege sexual assault. This woman lives in California. She asked me to embargo her name until noon on Thursday.”

Burkman is trying to shield himself, claiming that another person has made an allegation that he’s airing rather than himself alleging. But if Burkman knows it’s not true, he could be found guilty of defamation anyway.

Burkman could also conceivably be charged with obstruction of justice to the extent that his efforts were intended to or did derail the Mueller investigation.

Whoever . . . . corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be (guilty of an offense).”

Burkman’s in for even more trouble if he is, as The Daily Beast suggested, “behind an attempt to pay women.” Procuring perjury is a crime, called “subornation of perjury.” Also a crime? “Us[ing] any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.”

Burkman came out to deny the claims at 4:46 PM ET Tuesday. By 4:50, Brian Krassenstein had an answer for Burkman.

Brian Krassenstein linked back to the story by his brother, Ed, published earlier Tuesday, containing the Krassensteins’ account of what’s unfolded since the Parsons email. While the Krassensteins are not primary source material, they did piece together information now verified by multiple outlets.

How likely is it that Burkman can be tied to this scheme? Well, he’s named in the first email. But that could make him a victim. More damningly, he’s linked to “Surefire Intelligence,” the firm that keeps popping up—including as an email account source.

Jacob Wohl, another prominent right-wing personality, has claimed that Burkman told him he’d hired “Matthew Cohen,” a managing partner at Surefire.

It’s deception all the way down.

Why would Burkman put himself at legal risk? First because he doesn’t believe he’ll face consequences. Defamation and obstruction of justice are both difficult to prove; he may be confident there’s no evidence to nail him for procuring or using a false statement. Second, for the gain: Every outlet’s covering this hoax rather than the substance of the Mueller probe.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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