Tony Clement says alleged extortion attempt by ‘foreign actors’ wasn’t only case of ‘inappropriate exchanges’

Disgraced former Conservative MP Tony Clement says an alleged attempt to extort him over “inappropriate exchanges” wasn’t the first time.

In a letter posted online to his Parry Sound-Muskoka constituents, Clement — who resigned from the Conservative caucus on Wednesday — admitted to multiple “inappropriate exchanges” and said that not only had someone allegedly attempted to bribe a participant in one such exchange to disclose details of it last year but that the individuals who he accused of attempting to extort him earlier this week are “foreign actors.”

“During a period of personal difficulty and weakness I engaged in inappropriate exchanges that crossed lines that should never have been crossed,” he wrote.

“These exchanges led to acts of infidelity. 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. I immediately reported this personal matter to the OPP last summer.”

He also said that the sending of “sexually explicit” photos and a video he admitted to in a public statement on Tuesday night had resulted in “foreign actors attempting to use my indiscretion for financial extortion.”

Global News exclusively reported on Tuesday that Clement had been asked to hand over €50,000.

Clement did not provide any evidence in his letter as to why he believed the actors allegedly trying to extort him are foreign.

RCMP confirmed earlier this week they are investigating after Clement brought the matter to their attention.

However, the force has not confirmed the nature of the investigation.

“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,” Clement said in his letter posted online on Thursday.

“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.”

Clement, who is married with three children, is a former Conservative cabinet minister and most recently served as the party’s justice critic.

He was also a member of various committees including the new National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

Membership on that select committee gives parliamentarians top-secret security clearance to handle some of the country’s most sensitive intelligence.

In his statement announcing the alleged extortion attempt on Tuesday night, Clement said he was resigning from both his role as justice critic and from his various committee roles.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer later confirmed that included resigning from his role on the national security committee.

EXCLUSIVE: Tony Clement facing alleged extortion demand of 50K euros after sending ‘sexually explicit’ photos, video

Scheer had said on Wednesday morning he had met with Clement on Monday and that he was taking the MP at his word that the explicit photos and video at the heart of the sexting scandal were a one-off.

He reversed that position just hours later, telling reporters ahead of question period that the matter “is not an isolated incident.”

Because of that realization, Scheer announced he had asked Clement to resign from the Conservative caucus and that he had done so.

A Global News reporter later spotted Clement at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

He did not respond to that reporter’s attempts to question him on his caucus exit.

However, Clement’s claim of foreign involvement raises significant questions as the clock ticks down to the next federal election.

He is not the first Canadian MP to claim his social media activities have been targeted by foreign actors.

During a meeting of the House of Commons ethics committee last month, Conservative MP Peter Kent told members gathered there that his Facebook and Instagram accounts had been hacked by someone outside the country earlier that same week.

“As a politician, I participate in social media almost entirely for political benefit, and there are significant benefits to using Facebook, Instagram and other social media—Twitter,” he said.

“This week the digital threat was brought home to me when my Instagram account was seized by someone from outside of the country. My Facebook account was hacked and took some time to be recovered.”

In a September report, the Communications Security Establishment specifically flagged the issue of attempts by adversaries to blackmail and discredit political targets as a key threat to the Canadian democratic process.

One month earlier, in August, Commissioner of Elections Yves Côté also highlighted social media as a potential target for foreign interference attempts.

The Liberal’s Bill C-76, which attempts to crack down on foreign interference and modernize the Elections Canada Act, is currently being studied by the Senate.

It has faced criticism for not going far enough to address concerns about privacy of voters and foreign interference.

But officials with Elections Canada have said they are already working on implementing its provisions in order to prepare for the 2019 campaign and election.

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