CLE­MENT’S STORY DIS­PUTED

Two women ap­pear to con­tra­dict time frame about when MP be­came aware of an al­leged at­tempt to ex­tort him

The Welland Tribune - - Front Page - ALEX BALLINGALL AND ALEX BOUTILIER Toronto Star Ex­clu­sive

OT­TAWA—Two women who claim to have had in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships with Tony Cle­ment — one on­line, one in per­son — say the ousted Con­ser­va­tive par­lia­men­tar­ian was aware of at­tempts to ex­pose his al­legedly in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour to­ward women as early as last spring or sum­mer.

Th­ese ac­counts seem to con­tra­dict Cle­ment’s ini­tial pub­lic state­ment about when he be­came aware of an al­leged at­tempt to ex­tort him. They also call into ques­tion whether, given his po­si­tion on Par­lia­ment’s new na­tional se­cu­rity com­mit­tee, he ful­filled his le­gal obli­ga­tion at the time to no­tify the Privy Coun­cil Of­fice about whether his per­sonal cir­cum­stances changed in a way that could af­fect his se­cu­rity clear­ance.

Un­til Tues­day, Cle­ment was a lead­ing mem­ber of the Con­ser­va­tive cau­cus who had twice jumped into the race to lead the party and served promi­nent cabi­net roles un­der Stephen Harper.

On Wed­nes­day, Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer re­quested Cle­ment’s res­ig­na­tion. The de­mand came less than 24 hours af­ter Cle­ment pub­lished a state­ment claim­ing he was tar­geted for “fi­nan­cial ex­tor­tion” af­ter send­ing sex­ual im­ages and a video to an un­known party. Cle­ment claims he be­lieved the per­son was a con­sent­ing fe­male adult.

The Star has in­ter­viewed two women who say they met Cle­ment on­line and went on to have sex­ual in­ter­ac­tions with him. Both women, who know each other and con­sulted about speak­ing pub­licly, asked the Star not to pub­lish their names — one out of con­cern over Cle­ment’s re­ac­tion to her speak­ing pub­licly about him; the other be­cause she feared ram­i­fi­ca­tions in her pro­fes­sional life.

The Star has agreed to keep their iden­ti­ties con­fi­den­tial in or­der to tell their sto­ries in the pub­lic in­ter­est, as Cle­ment was a se­nior Con­ser­va­tive fig­ure with high level se­cu­rity clear­ance.

When pre­sented with a de­tailed ac­count of the women’s claims Wed­nes­day night, Cle­ment re­sponded by email: “I’m work­ing on a state­ment that I’ll get to you when I’m com­fort­able with it. Ap­pre­ci­ate it.”

In a state­ment posted to his per­sonal web­site Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Cle­ment con­firmed he en­gaged in mul­ti­ple “in­ap­pro­pri­ate ex­changes that crossed lines that should have never been crossed.” He said th­ese ex­changes led to “acts of in­fi­delity.” One of th­ese ex­changes led to a woman be­ing of­fered money by an anony­mous so­cial me­dia ac­count in ex­change for in­ti­mate and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion about him, he said.

He said he re­ported this to the On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice “last sum­mer.”

He added that, “most re­cently, an­other in­ap­pro­pri­ate ex­change led to for­eign ac­tors at­tempt­ing to use my in­dis­cre­tion for fi­nan­cial ex­tor­tion” and that he im­me­di­ately re­ported this to the RCMP.

Cle­ment apol­o­gized to his wife, fam­ily and sup­port­ers, as well as to women with whom the ex­changes oc­curred and “any­one else who felt in any way that I crossed on­line bound­aries that made them feel un­com­fort­able.”

He said he in­tends to stay on as MP for Parry Sound—Muskoka.

Ac­cord­ing to the women’s ac­counts, some­time last spring or sum­mer Cle­ment be­came aware of In­sta­gram ac­counts that sent mes­sages about his be­hav­iour to­ward women, sought in­for­ma­tion about him, and posted pho­tos of him. The women said Cle­ment sep­a­rately told them he had re­ported this on­line be­hav­iour to po­lice.

This would mean Cle­ment was

aware for months that an un­known party was seek­ing em­bar­rass­ing in­for­ma­tion about him be­fore he pub­licly re­vealed the ex­tor­tion al­le­ga­tions.

As a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment’s new na­tional se­cu­rity com­mit­tee, Cle­ment was bound by law to no­tify the Clerk of the Privy Coun­cil — the fed­eral govern­ment’s top bu­reau­crat — of “any change in their per­sonal cir­cum­stances that may af­fect their se­cu­rity clear­ance.”

Ex­am­ples spelled out in the law in­clude crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, a change in fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion, as­so­ci­a­tion with crim­i­nals and be­ing “the sub­ject of a law en­force­ment ac­tion.”

The Star re­ported Tues­day night that Cle­ment flagged the is­sue to the Privy Coun­cil Of­fice days ago, and that Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s of­fice was made aware. The RCMP is now in­ves­ti­gat­ing Cle­ment’s al­le­ga­tion, but re­fused to say when the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was opened.

Cameron Ah­mad, a spokesper­son for Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, said Thurs­day that the PMO learned of the al­leged ex­tor­tion against Cle­ment, af­ter the privy coun­cil was in­formed.

In an email Thurs­day, Privy Coun­cil Of­fice spokesper­son Paul Duch­esne said the of­fice takes na­tional se­cu­rity mat­ters se­ri­ously. He said “when PCO be­came aware of the sit­u­a­tion, we im­me­di­ately re­ferred the mat­ter to the RCMP and took ev­ery pre­cau­tion nec­es­sary to safe­guard Canada’s na­tional se­cu­rity.”

He did not say when the PCO first re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about Cle­ment’s sit­u­a­tion.

Speak­ing to re­porters in Bramp­ton Thurs­day, Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer sug­gested Cle­ment’s on­line be­hav­iour was not caught by Canada’s na­tional se­cu­rity agen­cies as they screened the for­mer cabi­net min­is­ter for his role on the com­mit­tee.

“Not only were we not aware of this, but nei­ther were the na­tional se­cu­rity agen­cies who did the screen­ing for Mr. Cle­ment be­fore he took his place on the com­mit­tee,” Scheer said. “Peo­ple are ca­pa­ble of hav­ing lapses of judg­ment, un­ex­pected lapses of judg­ment. Peo­ple make mis­takes. When those mis­takes are brought to light, then peo­ple take ac­count­abil­ity for it. And or­ga­ni­za­tions and groups with work with them have to make de­ci­sions as well. And that’s why I be­lieve that the right course of ac­tion was for Tony to re­spond to th­ese al­le­ga­tions … from out­side cau­cus.”

The first woman who spoke to the Star is in her early twen­ties. She said Cle­ment added her on In­sta­gram last year and liked some of her pho­tos. He started send­ing her di­rect mes­sages, which she said be­came flir­ta­tious and then overtly sex­ual. She said they started con­sen­su­ally shar­ing in­ti­mate mes­sages, and he sent her ex­plicit im­ages.

“He would talk dirty to me, then send me nude pho­tos and videos,” she said.

He asked her more than once to meet for cof­fee or come to his house, but the woman said she made up ex­cuses to avoid go­ing. She never met Cle­ment in the off-line world, she said.

A few months ago — the woman be­lieves it was in June or July — Cle­ment asked her to delete all records of their con­ver­sa­tions. She said the MP told her he was con­cerned his In­sta­gram ac­count was “hacked” and asked her to only speak to him over What­sApp, an en­crypted mes­sag­ing ser­vice.

The woman said she agreed with Cle­ment’s re­quest.

Soon af­ter that con­ver­sa­tion, she said an un­known user added her on In­sta­gram. She said the ac­count mes­saged her and al­leged Cle­ment en­gaged in in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual be­hav­iour to­ward women. The woman, who said she didn’t know who was be­hind the ac­count, took it as a “warn­ing.”

“I was ac­tu­ally kind of scared,” she said. “I’m still won­der­ing how the heck did they find me?”

The woman pro­vided the Star with a screen­shot of the mes­sage, which does not show the name of the ac­count. The mes­sage is dated July 2.

The woman said she told Cle­ment about the mes­sage, and that he “begged” her to be­lieve the mes­sage was not true and that she was the only woman he was in­ter­act­ing with.

She said Cle­ment sent her a screen­shot of a dif­fer­ent In­sta­gram ac­count, @pier­son476. She said Cle­ment asked her if she had seen that ac­count on In­sta­gram; the woman said she had not.

The woman pro­vided the Star with the screen­shot she said Cle­ment sent her. It is times­tamped in her phone “7/3/18,” a date she be­lieves is July 3, 2018. The photo shows @pier­son476’s pro­file page, which dis­plays two pho­tos: one of a smart­phone dis­play­ing a pic­ture of a shirt­less Cle­ment, the other what ap­pears to be Cle­ment kiss­ing a woman on the cheek.

The Star was un­able to find ei­ther ac­count — the one that mes­saged the woman about Cle­ment, and @pier­son476 — on In­sta­gram. The woman said both ac­counts dis­ap­peared soon af­ter th­ese in­ter­ac­tions with Cle­ment.

The woman’s ex-boyfriend, whose con­tact in­for­ma­tion she pro­vided to the Star, said she mes­saged him some­time in the sum­mer — he be­lieves be­fore Au­gust — to tell him about her on­line in­ter­ac­tions with Cle­ment. He said she also told him about the strange In­sta­gram ac­counts, and that she sent him the screen­shot of @pier­son476.

The ex-boyfriend’s phone shows the screen­shot was up­loaded to his Google Pho­tos ap­pli­ca­tion on July 3.

Later, in what the woman re­calls to be late July, she spoke with Cle­ment again about the strange In­sta­gram ac­counts.

The woman said Cle­ment told her “some­one was af­ter him for money” and that he told her he re­ported the ac­tiv­ity to “the RCMP and po­lice.”

“He was scared,” the woman said. “He said at one point he couldn’t sleep for a week.”

The RCMP re­fused to say when they re­ceived in­for­ma­tion from Cle­ment or opened their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his claims.

The sec­ond woman who spoke to the Star is in her twen­ties. She, too, met Cle­ment on­line when he added her on so­cial me­dia. The woman said he started lik­ing her pic­tures and then started send­ing her di­rect mes­sages that of­ten in­cluded kiss and heart emoti­cons.

She said she went on to have an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship with Cle­ment. She said she de­cided to end their re­la­tion­ship be­cause the 57-year-old MP is mar­ried.

Some time later, in May or June 2018, the woman said she re­ceived mes­sages from “two or three” un­known users on In­sta­gram.

One of them sent her in­for­ma­tion about the first woman who spoke to the Star, and the two women con­nected on­line at that point, they said.

The sec­ond woman said one of the ac­counts of­fered her money for in­for­ma­tion about Cle­ment, but she said she doesn’t re­call which ac­count it was.

“This per­son, who­ever it was, was try­ing to ex­pose his be­hav­iour,” she said.

The woman said Cle­ment was aware of this In­sta­gram ac­tiv­ity and flagged one of the ac­counts to her — @pier­son476. She said Cle­ment told her he re­ported it to the On­tario Pro­vin­cial Po­lice, and that all of the strange ac­counts have since dis­ap­peared.

The woman does not have any records of her in­ter­ac­tions with th­ese ac­counts, but she pro­vided the Star with a screen­shot of a text mes­sage con­ver­sa­tion with Cle­ment, in which he men­tioned he was speak­ing with po­lice.

The woman said she scrolled back in her phone and took the screen­shot Thurs­day, but said the ex­change it shows is from

July.

Sgt. Ca­role Dionne, a spokesper­son for the OPP, de­clined to com­ment Wed­nes­day night. She said the OPP doesn’t con­firm if it re­ceives re­ports from the pub­lic, nor does it con­firm whether it has started an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The RCMP de­clined fur­ther com­ment Thurs­day, aside from con­firm­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been opened at Cle­ment’s re­quest.

Kim Fox, a Cana­dian jour­nal­ist in Philadel­phia, told the Star she also had un­usual in­ter­ac­tions with Cle­ment on so­cial me­dia. About three or four years ago, she said he added her to In­sta­gram and started lik­ing her pho­tos. She said she would wake up in the morn­ing and see a “wall” of no­ti­fi­ca­tions — some­times up to 10 or 20, she said.

“It was a joke, I would screen cap them and I would send them to my friends,” she said. “It just made me re­ally un­com­fort­able. … It’s odd be­hav­iour for a pub­lic fig­ure.”

CHRIS YOUNG THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Tony Cle­ment said he was tar­geted for ex­tor­tion af­ter send­ing sex­ual im­ages and a video to an un­known party.

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