Cle­ment told Tory whip about ‘troll’ in sum­mer

Strahl didn’t ‘es­ca­late’ mat­ter to Scheer’s of­fice

National Post (Latest Edition) - - CANADA - Marie-danielle sMith

OT­TAWA • As early as this sum­mer, for­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter Tony Cle­ment in­formed a Con­ser­va­tive Party of­fi­cial that an In­sta­gram ac­count was “spread­ing lies about him” and that he was con­tact­ing the On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice as a re­sult, ac­cord­ing to chief op­po­si­tion whip Mark Strahl.

Cle­ment said pub­licly this week that he went to the RCMP with a re­port that some­one tried to ex­tort money from him af­ter he sent sex­u­ally ex­plicit pho­tos and video to a so­cial me­dia ac­count he thought be­longed to a con­sent­ing woman.

Af­ter Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer asked him to leave cau­cus be­cause of mul­ti­ple on­line al­le­ga­tions of creepy be­hav­iour, Cle­ment fur­ther re­vealed in a Thurs­day let­ter apol­o­giz­ing to his con­stituents that mul­ti­ple “in­ap­pro­pri­ate ex­changes” on so­cial me­dia had led him to con­tact po­lice this year. He said that in the sum­mer, a woman he had com­mu­ni­cated with on so­cial me­dia was of­fered money to re­veal per­sonal and in­ti­mate in­for­ma­tion about him.

The OPP con­firmed to Na­tional Post on Thurs­day that Cle­ment had made a re­port dur­ing the sum­mer. Scheer’s spokesman, Brock Har­ri­son, told the Post that Cle­ment did not in­form his party of that re­port.

But reached Fri­day, Strahl said a con­ver­sa­tion had in­deed hap­pened. He said he did not “es­ca­late” the mat­ter to the leader’s of­fice be­cause Cle­ment led him to be­lieve the prob­lem was a rel­a­tively “rou­tine” one, of an in­ter­net troll ha­rass­ing a politi­cian.

“Tony and I did have a con­ver­sa­tion this sum­mer about it, and how it was pre­sented to me was a fake In­sta­gram ac­count was spread­ing lies about him on In­sta­gram. Noth­ing about, ‘some­one has in­ti­mate pho­tos of me,’ noth­ing about black­mail at all at that time,” Strahl told the Post. “This was just, ‘an anony­mous troll has an ac­count and they’re spread­ing lies about me, what should I do?’ ”

Cle­ment had been given top-se­cret se­cu­rity clear­ance as one of two Con­ser­va­tive MPs ap­pointed to a spe­cial com­mit­tee of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans charged with over­see­ing the work of Canada’s spy agen­cies. Se­cu­rity ex­perts have raised con­cerns this week about the dan­ger of a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee al­low­ing them­selves to be vul­ner­a­ble to black­mail. As of Fri­day evening, there was no pub­lic ev­i­dence the ex­tor­tion­ist sought se­cure in­for­ma­tion.

Strahl knew the mat­ter was se­ri­ous enough for Cle­ment to want to ap­proach po­lice. But he didn’t in­form Scheer or go any far­ther than pro­vid­ing Cle­ment with in­for­ma­tion about how to have a ha­rass­ing ac­count taken down by Face­book, which owns In­sta­gram. “Ap­par­ently, within a cou­ple of days, the ac­count was taken down. So that was the end of it, as far as I knew,” said Strahl.

A source close to Cle­ment told the Post that Strahl’s ac­count sounded ac­cu­rate — that at the time, it ap­peared to just be a troll try­ing to spread po­lit­i­cally dam­ag­ing con­tent about Cle­ment, not a na­tional se­cu­rity is­sue.

“At no time have th­ese per­sonal lapses im­pacted or in­volved my day-to-day work as a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment,” Cle­ment said in the let­ter posted Thurs­day. He could not be reached for com­ment Fri­day evening.

NOTH­ING ABOUT BLACK­MAIL AT ALL AT THAT TIME.

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