The revelation earlier this week that some right-wing internet trolls have allegedly attempted to pay women to falsely accuse Robert Mueller of sexual misconduct has generated a good deal of snickering from observers. Details of the plot read like a grand scheme that would make Wile E. Coyote blush. The website of “Surefire Intelligence,” the firm implicated in the story, used pictures of famous models and actors to dummy up its web presence instead of, you know, random stock photography models. Backpage advertisers engaged in more clever subterfuge.
But a tidbit that deserves more focus is the gobsmackingly stupid emails that unraveled the whole endeavor.
If one were searching for a willing co-conspirator in a plot to undermine the public servant investigating corruption at the heart of the Trump administration, it would be hard to pick a worse target than Professor Jennifer Taub. The Vermont Law School academic received an inquiring email from someone identifying themselves as Simon Frick from Surefire Intelligence — the “researcher” depicted on the website as two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz — asking not just if Taub had ever had an untoward interaction with Robert Mueller and offering to pay her to tell them about it.
Professor Taub, who told Seven Days that she’s “mystified as to why she was solicited,” hasn’t even met Robert Mueller, and has repeatedly and publicly spoken out against the Trump administration, took this email directly to Mueller’s office. Oops:
“It’s very sloppy,” said Taub, who lives in Northampton, Mass. “I just laugh. You probably shouldn’t pick me. One theory is they’re casting a very wide net, and they don’t even care if people know.”
Yet if the idea was to cast a wide net, why include the promise to pay for testimony? Just email bomb every woman in law with a request for information and wait for it to leak. The pay-for-play element is the huckleberry that pushes this into comic criminality. Was the plan to make it look like advocacy groups routinely pay for false allegations? Like, was this some kind of ham-fisted effort to discredit testimony against Kavanaugh? It’s all so confusing.
For her part though, Professor Taub didn’t have to wait long for this whole affair to become a teachable moment:
On Tuesday, as news of the scheme made national headlines, Taub was teaching her VLS students about witness tampering.
Oh, the irony.
(You can check out the emails on the next page…)
Vermont Law School Professor Blows Whistle on Scheme Targeting Mueller [Seven Days]
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news.