Inside plot to humiliate One Nation
The fake gun lobbyist who went undercover for Al Jazeera has revealed one of the scariest moments he experienced during the investigation.
Rodger Muller was asked to pose as a gun enthusiast by his friend, the journalist Peter Charley and head of Al Jazeera's investigative unit in North America, to expose the inner workings of the powerful gun lobby in the US.
In an explosive investigation aired earlier this year, One Nation's dealings with the National Rifle Association were exposed and how it tried to get millions of dollars in political donations from America's largest gun right lobby.
Footage of Pauline Hanson's chief of staff James Ashby and the party's Queensland leader Steve Dickson trying to solicit donations in the US, as well as Ms Hanson talking about a Port Arthur massacre conspiracy theory rocked the party ahead of the federal election campaign. Later, footage was also leaked of Mr Dickson in a strip club, forcing him to resign.
Now Mr Muller has revealed to 7.30 how he came to be part of the three-year investigation and his fear and anxiety while dealing with other gun lobbyists.
The pet food maker became friends with the Al Jazeera journalist as they used to live in the same Sydney neighbourhood and visited the same coffee shop.
When Mr Charley was thinking of potential people to approach for the project, he thought his friend of about 20 years had the right temperament.
"(Mr Muller) seems to be the sort of guy who could handle a lot of pressure with a good sense of humour," he told ABC's 7.30.
But when Mr Muller was first approached about the idea, he was so sceptical he Googled Mr Charley as he thought "he'd gone mad".
After accepting the assignment, Mr Muller was put through gun safety courses and gun shooting courses to ensure he was credible as a pro-gun advocate.
When asked whether there were moments when he thought he had got in over his head, Mr Muller mentioned a course he attended in Washington about gun safety and concealment.
The course was run by an ex-policeman and about a dozen people from all "walks of life" turned up. At one point, the former officer told everyone to "bring out your guns".
"Everybody pulled out a gun from somewhere … and put them on the boardroom table," Mr Muller said. "I just basically shrank into my chair with a dozen guns presented in front of me".
Meeting with the NRA was also very stressful because of the fear of being caught.
Mr Muller said Al Jazeera would always check out the venue of a meeting with him the day before to look at possible exits in case he was exposed.
"I was always confident I had someone there from our team but if we got caught, I was the one getting caught," he said.
"So yeah, there was a lot of anxiety and fear. But as time went on, I got more and more used to the cameras and that people weren't picking them up.
"(But) there was always a heightened level of anxiety and every single meeting was different."
Mr Muller said this fear was so great sometimes, it felt like "you had an anaconda crushing your chest".
Not being able to tell his friends and family was also difficult as some of them thought he had gone crazy when they saw his pro-gun website.
Over time, he also formed relationships with those he was dealing with and it was tough to return to normal life.
"You start to believe what you're saying, eventually," Mr Muller said.
"It did become part of my life and quite normal.
"It's hard. And at the end of the day nearly everybody that I met throughout the project were quite nice people, and you do form a bond, because that's part of the job and I think just human nature."
Mr Muller said he struggled when the investigation ended and went to see a psychologist to resolve his issues about living a double life.
Overall he thinks of the experience as a good story to tell and something that not many people get to experience.
However, Mr Muller said the main thing he had learned was how fragile Australian democracy is and how easily it could be affected.
"I just think it's something as an Australian that you take for granted and it's something I'll be talking to my kids about, protecting the way Australia lives and who we are."