Tony Clements letter: MP admits inappropriate online exchanges led to acts of infidelity

Tony Clement\s letter: MP admits inappropriate online exchanges led to acts of infidelity
MP Clement admits to inappropriate online behaviour, says alleged extortionist was foreign actor
OTTAWA – MP Tony Clement has admitted to additional instances of inappropriate exchanges that "led to acts of infidelity," and crossed lines that he said should not have been crossed.

In a lengthy statement posted to his MP website on Thursday, Clement said one of these exchanges "led to a woman being offered money by an anonymous social media account in exchange for the disclosure of intimate and personal information," and that he reported this to the Ontario Provincial Police last summer.

In November 2017, Clement became one of two Conservatives appointed to a special committee of parliamentarians tasked with overseeing the work of Canada’s spy agencies. Its members are given thorough security briefings, rendering them responsible for sensitive information about national security information and theoretically making them potential targets for blackmail. They are expected to disclose any changes to their personal lives that could affect their clearance. There is no public indication that either incident was related to Clement’s role on the committee, but even so, as security experts such as Carleton University professor Stephanie Carvin have told the National Post, questions of judgement raised by this case are important because if agencies feel they can’t fully trust members of the committee “it will damage its credibility.” The RCMP confirmed an investigation was underway but declined to comment further.

The longtime MP revealed late Tuesday that over the last three weeks he had sent sexually explicit images and a video of himself to someone who he thought was a consenting female, but allegedly turned out to be an extortionist. The RCMP is currently investigating the matter to determine who is responsible.

In the new statement, Clement says this most recent financial extortion attempt was from someone he believes is a "foreign actor."

On Wednesday he was removed from the Conservative caucus as "numerous reports of other incidents" were brought to Conservative Leader Andrew Scheers attention. Initially Scheer said he was willing to take the high-profile Tory at his word that it was a one-time thing.

I have had the tremendous honour and privilege of serving as your Member of Parliament since 2006, a trust that has been renewed through four consecutive federal elections. Whether on the government or opposition side of the aisle, whether serving at the Cabinet table or on the back bench, my top priority has always been, and continues to be, working for the people and communities of Parry Sound—Muskoka. I have done so tirelessly, with passion and enjoyment from the first moment I received the honour to work on your behalf.

Video: Tony Clement admits to multiple infidelities, says foreign actors tried to extort him

Since the news broke about Clement, young women have posted unverified claims on social media alleging that Clement made them feel uncomfortable by liking their photos and sending them messages on Instagram.

In conducting myself this way I’ve let down myself, my family, my friends and supporters, my community, my work colleagues, and my staff — basically everyone I care about and who care about me. Pride and vanity got the better of me, and shame held me back from getting back to the path of good. I apologize to the women with whom the exchanges occurred, and I also apologize to anyone else who felt in any way that I crossed online boundaries that made them feel uncomfortable, even without my knowing. I am deeply sorry.

His statement came shortly before publication of a Toronto Star story about two women who said they had relationships with Clement — one online only — and who said Clement knew in the summer that someone was offering money for embarrassing details about him. Both had first met Clement on social media.

The fact that Mr. Clement was exposed to extortion has raised questions about his presence up until this week on a committee of MPs and senators that oversees the activities of Canadas national-security agencies. The committee, which operates behind closed doors, requires its members to obtain a security clearance given their access to classified information – but Mr. Clement only resigned on Wednesday.

Reacting to the latest developments at an event in Brampton, Ont., Scheer said that Thursday was the first time he had heard about the provincial police probe into Clements online activity, and denied any prior knowledge of any of his former MPs past behaviour.

"This was a shock to me when I was made aware of the situation and there was no indication that this sort of thing was happening."

Concerns have been raised over whether the MPs actions could have national security implications given he was a member of the closed-door, top-secret National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

Clement, a two-time leadership contender and former Conservative cabinet minister, said that at no time did his personal indiscretions impact his work, though Scheer said that the national security agencies who screened Clement before he joined the committee were not aware either.

Kim Fox, a Canadian journalist who is now working in the United States, said she did not know Mr. Clement personally but often noticed that he had liked her pictures on Instagram. Over time, she came to realize Mr. Clement did the same with some of her friends. It made me feel really uncomfortable and others, too,” she said.

On CTVs Power Play, former CSIS head Richard Fadden criticized Clementsdecision not to take the first alleged instance of blackmail right to the RCMP, his leader, and the chair of the high-level committee.

But after the story broke allegations washed over social media, largely from young women, that Clement's online behaviour was not so pure. He's long been known to be a prolific user of social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Several people online Wednesday said that Clement had used Instagram, in particular, to connect with numerous young women and message them privately. He spent a lot of time clicking to show he liked their photos.

"On that committee where he has access to the countrys most delicate secrets, you cannot put yourself in a position where youre susceptible to extortion or blackmail. You just cant," Fadden said. "I were a foreign power trying to figure out, you know, how I was going to get myself into somewhere in the government of Canada, I would have said to myself this is not a bad place to try."

Of particular concern in Clement's case was the risk to national security when an MP with top security clearance opened himself up to an extortion attempt. Clement was an original member of the new National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, created in 2017 to oversee national security and intelligence activities carried out across the government.

As for whether this situation could have broader implications for Canadas elections, and whether its evidence of foreign actors seeking to interfere, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said shed leave it to the national security agencies to look into this specific case, but that "its incumbent upon us as Parliamentarians to hold ourselves to the highest account so we dont put ourselves in those situations."

Clement is a well-known MP who has been part of the Ontario and federal conservative parties for several decades, both as an official and an elected MPP and MP. He was a cabinet minister at both the provincial and federal levels. He ran twice for the federal leadership, losing in 2004 and withdrawing from the 2017 contest early to support Maxime Bernier.

Tony Clement Admits To Acts Of Infidelity, More Inappropriate Exchanges With Women

In the new statement, Clement said he wanted to address "a number of poor decisions" that he made "during a period of personal difficulty and weakness."

Initially Clement resigned only as the party's justice critic and from his committee roles; Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer didn't ask him to leave the party caucus. He said he was taking Clement at his word that the "terrible lapse in judgment" had been a one-time thing between two consenting adults.

"While these exchanges were entirely consensual and mutual, they were absolutely wrong and should never have occurred," Clement said.

The 57-year-old said hes let down his wife, family, friends, supporters, constituents, colleagues, and his staff.

"Pride and vanity got the better of me, and shame held me back from getting back to the path of good," Clement said, offering an apology to the women he engaged with in these exchanges, as well as anyone else who felt he had crossed boundaries or made them feel uncomfortable, unbeknownst to him.

He has often cleaved to social conservatives throughout his career. Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), one of the more prominent social-conservative organizations in the country, lists 22 pieces of legislation relating to life and family issues. Clement has endorsed CLC positions for 15 of them, including voting against euthanasia, marijuana legislation, and a 2012 bill that would have made it illegal to discriminate against the transgendered. (He did support a similar bill in 2016, thus angering the CLC.)

His wife Lynne Golding is a Toronto-based lawyer. She issued a statement to the Parry Sound North Star, saying she sincerely appreciated the concern at this "difficult time," and asked for privacy.

Clement said that he intends to stay on as an elected federal official and representative of his Parry Sound-Muskoka riding while he seeks help and efforts to repair his marriage.

Hours later, Clement was pushed out of the Conservative caucus after Twitter lit up with accusations of creepy behaviour from a variety of women in Parliaments orbit. Though these accusations dont seem to include anything overtly physical, they suggest a pattern of queasy online behaviour — the proverbial pervy uncle, armed not with a gin and tonic but a very active Instagram account.

Before being ousted from caucus, he had already resigned from all additional parliamentary and committee duties. He is now listed as an Independent MP, sitting on the back bench alongside a handful of other MPs who were removed from their respective caucuses over allegations of misconduct.

To wit: By his own telling, Clement sent sexually explicit images and a video of himself to someone he believed was a consenting female adult. In fact, the recipient(s) threatened to release this material if Clement didnt pony up. He promptly referred the incident to the RCMP and proceeded to suffer what will likely be the second-biggest indignity of his life.

"I cannot undo the pain and hurt my actions have caused. All I can do is own up to what I have done and commit myself to rebuilding our trust, however long that may take," he said.

As for whether this situation could have broader implications for Canadas elections, and whether its evidence of foreign actors seeking to interfere, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said shed leave it to the national security agencies to look into this specific case, but that "its incumbent upon us as Parliamentarians to hold ourselves to the highest account so we dont put ourselves in those situations."

Conservative MP Tony Clement waits to be introduced to supporters at a rally in Mississauga, Ontario to announce his candidacy for the leadership of the Federal Conservative Party on Tuesday, July 12, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

"On that committee where he has access to the countrys most delicate secrets, you cannot put yourself in a position where youre susceptible to extortion or blackmail. You just cant," Fadden said. "I were a foreign power trying to figure out, you know, how I was going to get myself into somewhere in the government of Canada, I would have said to myself this is not a bad place to try."

MP Tony Clement has admitted to additional instances of inappropriate exchanges that “led to acts of infidelity,” and crossed lines that he said, should not have been crossed.

Former Conservative MP Tony Clement admits to multiple acts of infidelity as long ago as last summer

Former Conservative MP Tony Clement, dropped from caucus over a public sexting scandal, is now admitting to multiple cases of "inappropriate exchanges" online and says it was "foreign actors" who tried to financially extort him.

The longtime MP revealed late Tuesday that over the last three weeks he had sent sexually explicit images and a video of himself to someone who he thought was a consenting female, but allegedly turned out to be an extortionist. The RCMP is currently investigating the matter to determine who is responsible.

For the first time, the Ontario MP is also admitting that he had to contact police not once, but twice over online transgressions — calling into question who in official Ottawa and law enforcement circles knew the details of the case, and when.

"Pride and vanity got the better of me, and shame held me back from getting back to the path of good," Clement said, offering an apology to the women he engaged with in these exchanges, as well as anyone else who felt he had crossed boundaries or made them feel uncomfortable, unbeknownst to him.

In a letter posted to his website on Thursday, one day after Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer asked him to leave the Tory caucus, Clement said that "during a period of personal difficulty and weakness I engaged in inappropriate exchanges that crossed lines that should never have been crossed."

Since #MeToo, there has been a lot of discussion in Ottawa about men in positions of authority "using that position to try to get dates or whatever with young women," said Delacourt. "How that passed Tony Clement by, and how … that remained an open secret is a mystery to me. It shows to me the pervasiveness of this problem," she told Tremonti. "I'm not happy it happened. I'm not happy that young women still are afraid of this happening online."

"One inappropriate exchange led to a woman being offered money by an anonymous social media account in exchange for the disclosure of intimate and personal information."

Clement resigned his position on a number of Commons committees Tuesday. On Wednesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer asked Clement to leave the Conservative caucus, citing new evidence to suggest "this was not an isolated incident" and that Clement is alleged to have engaged in similar behaviour in the past.

Clement said he reported that case to the Ontario Provincial Police last summer. The force confirmed for the CBC that Clement did come to the OPP with a complaint in the summer of 2018 and an investigation was launched. The OPP would not say if the investigation is still ongoing.

"I think the cultural conversation around Tony Clement in the last 24 hours has been a lot of glee around: 'He basically got catfished, he was married, he shouldn't have been sending nudes, blah, blah, blah,'" said Julie Lalonde, a women's advocate and sexual-assault prevention educator.

He goes on to write about another "inappropriate exchange" that "led to foreign actors attempting to use my indiscretion for financial extortion."

That lines up with the statement Clement issued earlier this week admitting to sharing sexually explicit images and a video with an individual online, allegedly leading later to an extortion attempt.

Lalonde described Clement's reputation as being "creepy to women online" as "an open secret for years" and said it is indicative​ of behaviour that can make someone feel unsafe or uncomfortable, but does not reach the threshold of breaking the law.

Sources have told CBC News that the would-be extortionist told Clement to pay €50,000 ($75,200 Cdn) or risk seeing the images and video released publicly.

Clement was on Canadas National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. That means he was privy to the countrys deepest secrets. He has admitted that he was duped into thinking his sexting, including a dubious video that he sent, was going to a consenting woman. The former Conservative now says he’s being extorted over their sexually explicit communications. The RCMP is investigating. This is the kind of gross recklessness that turns the hair of security officials prematurely grey.

Clement's bombshell reveal of the OPP complaint raises more questions about what authorities knew.

Sources told CBC News Clement flagged the alleged extortion attempt just a few days ago to the Privy Council Office — the branch of the bureaucracy that supports the prime minister and cabinet — and the special top secret national security committee he sat on until Tuesday.

But Weiner and Clement held high public office. Every day they conducted the publics business, benefactors of the public trust. What they do privately cannot be divorced from their heavy public responsibility to maintain and protect the integrity of the system they serve. Both men failed utterly to do that, which is why Weiner ultimately resigned — and Clement ought to.

Scheer said he only found out about the OPP report today and suggested he wasn't the only one blindsided by the news.

President Barack Obama let it be known publicly that if he were Weiner, he would resign. By this time, it had come out that two of the many women the Congressman had been sexting included a Las Vegas blackjack dealer and a 28-year-old budding porn star. Obamas press secretary said Weiner was becoming a distraction, which is the kiss of death in politics.

"This was a shock to me when I was made aware of the situation," he said today in Brampton, Ont.

Scheers wishy-washy reaction is strange for another reason. From what the Conservative leader himself has claimed, Clement lied to him about the number of times he has sexted anonymous women. The initial story was that this was a one-off between consenting adults, which Scheer could apparently forgive as a terrible lapse of judgment.

"Not only were we not aware of this, neither were the national security agencies that did the screening for Mr. Clement  before he took his place on the national security council."

"Since we are currently investigating the matter, we cannot further comment at this point," said a spokesperson in an email to CBC.

Clement's meteoric fall from the Conservative Party's front bench started on Tuesday, when he resigned his justice critic role and positions on a number of Commons committees — including a top secret national security and intelligence committee.

The rules for that committee state that "a member must, without delay, provide the Clerk of the Privy Council with a report of any change in their personal circumstances that may affect their security clearance."

While the first extortion attempt happened in the summer, a government official speaking on background said the Liberal government only became aware of Clement's situation last week, once the PCO was made aware of it. 

The next day he was out of caucus after Scheer said he found out about "numerous reports of other incidents."

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