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Jack Burkman, Jacob Wohl scheme accusing Mueller: legal implications

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Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller.
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Somodevilla/Getty Images


  • An alleged scheme involving a GOP operative’s and shady
    intelligence firm’s offers to pay women to falsely accuse the
    special counsel Robert Mueller of sexual misconduct could pose
    significant legal questions for the parties involved.
  • Mueller’s office has referred the alleged scheme to the FBI
    for investigation.
  • DOJ veterans say the operative, Jack Burkman, could face
    charges including obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and
    false statements if it emerges that he knowingly peddled false
    information to hamper the Russia probe.
  • The intelligence firm involved in the scheme, Surefire
    Intelligence, has several ties to the conservative firebrand
    Jacob Wohl.
  • Experts say that if Wohl or anyone else was involved in the
    alleged scheme, it could also form the basis for a conspiracy
    charge.

The latest twist in the Trump-Russia story is an unexpected one
that could bear significant legal implications for some of the
parties involved.

On Tuesday, the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office told Business Insider that it
had referred to the FBI for investigation an alleged scheme by a
GOP operative to pay women to falsely accuse Mueller of sexual
misconduct and workplace harassment.

As details of the suspicious scheme spilled out, it emerged that
men claiming to work for the GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman and
Surefire Intelligence, a shady intelligence firm tied
to the conservative firebrand Jacob Wohl, offered women 5-figure
payments to accuse Mueller of sexual misconduct and to sign a
sworn affidavit to that effect.

Shortly after the media reported on Burkman’s and Surefire
Intelligence’s apparent plan on Tuesday, the far-right website
Gateway Pundit published a document from Surefire
Intelligence that purports to detail an allegation against
Mueller by a woman who claims the special counsel sexually
assaulted her at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City on August
2, 2010.

There is no evidence that the allegation holds any merit. Burkman
also said on Tuesday that he will “reveal the first of Special
Counsel Robert Mueller’s sex assault victims” on Thursday at the
Rosslyn Holiday Inn in Arlington, Virginia.


Read more:
What we know about the shady
‘intel agency’ behind an alleged GOP scheme to pay women to
falsely accuse Mueller of sexual misconduct

Rather than legally implicate Mueller, however, the alleged
scheme may open Wohl, Burkman, and other parties up to legal
exposure.

Journalists were first alerted to the scheme when a woman
identifying herself as Lorraine Parsons reached out to them and
told them she’d a man working for Burkman had offered her $20,000
to falsely accuse Mueller of sexual misconduct.

Parsons did not respond to any follow-up questions from Business
Insider, and several other reporters said they found her to be
unreliable, adding that she also refused to speak to them on the
phone.

Burkman said on Tuesday that he had never met the woman.

But a second woman, Jen Taub, later came forward and told The
Atlantic that someone working for Surefire Intelligence had also
contacted her and made an offer similar to the one Parsons
outlined.

Wohl and Burkman are known to peddle conspiracy theories, and
both men frequently parrot President Donald Trump’s claims that
the Russia investigation is a politically motivated hoax and that
Mueller is embarking on a fishing expedition to entrap the
president.

‘If the basic facts’ of the scheme hold up … ‘Burkman is in
jeopardy’


trump rally
President
Donald Trump at an Ohio rally Aug. 4, 2018.


Carolyn
Kaster/AP



Harry Litman, a former deputy assistant attorney general, said
that “if the basic facts” of the scheme “hold up, and there is
apparently at least one corroborating witness, [Taub], Burkman is
in jeopardy.”

The most “straightforward” charge, he added, is obstruction of
justice.

“It’s obviously a scheme designed to hamper or derail the
investigation by discrediting Mueller publicly,” Litman said.

Burkman could also face a charge of defamation, but the FBI would
not investigate that because it’s not a criminal charge.

The GOP lobbyist was also interviewed by the FBI, and Litman said
that fact could form the basis for a false statement charge.

Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor from the Southern
District of New York, echoed that statement and added that “any
person who knowingly takes part in a scheme to fabricate
allegations against Mueller could be subject to federal criminal
charges” for witness tampering in addition to obstruction and
making false statements.

Those charges could work on two levels. It’s a crime to pay or
solicit any witness to give false testimony in any case.
Moreover, if the intent of that action is to derail Mueller’s
work on the Russia probe, that could expose the parties involved
to additional liability.

If a second person, like Wohl, was knowingly involved in the
alleged scheme, Litman said it could raise the prospect of a
conspiracy charge.

When contacted by NBC News on
Tuesday, Wohl said he didn’t have any role in the matter.

But the outlet reported that Wohl’s email address is the one
listed in the domain records for Surefire Intelligence’s website.
Calls to a number on the website also reportedly went to a voice
mailbox belonging to Wohl’s mother.

The legal questions surrounding outside parties, like Trump
allies who publicize unsubstantiated allegations against Mueller,
depend on their knowledge and intent, Honig said.

“If the outsider knew the allegations were false and published or
promoted them intending to interfere with or upend Mueller’s
work,” Honig said it’s possible — but not certain — that they
could also face criminal liability.

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