By now, you may have heard that the FBI is investigating a plot to smear special counsel Robert Mueller with claims of sexual abuse by women he may have worked with in an effort to discredit the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The idea appears to have been spawned by Jacob Wohl, a 20-year-old former hedge fund manager from Orange County who wants to be “the face of young Jewish supporters of President Trump.” He also writes for the far right wing Gateway Pundit site. Try as I might, I can’t ascertain the exact city in OC where Wohl hails from, so if a reader knows, please leave it in the comments section.
From the USA Today story on the case:
A scheme in which women were allegedly offered money to falsely implicate Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller in sexual misconduct has been referred to the FBI for review, Mueller’s spokesman said Tuesday.
The hoax surfaced more than a week ago when a number of journalists were contacted via email by a person who reported receiving a telephone call from an individual making the offer.
“When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the special counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” Mueller spokesman Peter Carr said.
Mueller, who leads the inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, has been the target of a barrage of criticism from President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies in Congress who have accused the special counsel of unfairly targeting the president.
The story was pitched around to a variety of mainstream media outlets and prominent investigative journalists, including Ronan Farrow, who passed on the story.
But the plot against Mueller points to the 20-year old who still resides in Orange County and boasts 158,000 Twitter followers and Twitter is where he’s most active, with many tweets stretching the believability factor. But who is Wohl really? From the cut.com:
Wohl first made headlines as a teenage hedge-fund owner, the Daily Beast reports; in 2016, at the age of 18, he began referring to himself as the “Wohl of Wall Street.” Amazingly, that nickname isn’t the most upsetting thing he did as a financier. That same year, he was investigated by a government regulator for fraud, and the Arizona Corporation Commission issued a cease-and-desist letter accusing him of selling unregistered securities.
During this time, he also registered several domain names, including WohlGirls.com, a website that featured a scantily clad “Wohl Girl of the Month,” as well as a “news” website called Offended America, which later rebranded as the Washington Reporter. (Earlier this year, Splinter reported that the Reporter’s prominent “Code of Ethics” appeared to be lifted almost completely from ProPublica’s.)
Where Wohl has gained the most prominence, though, is Twitter, where he is known for his sycophantic and almost instantaneous replies to many of President Trump’s tweets, and for repeatedly posting nearly identical tweets about visiting a “hipster coffee shop” where young libs huddle and reveal in hushed tones their admiration for Trump and his policies.
And from Vosinezas.com:
The way Wohl tells his story, he began his first hedge fund, Wohl Capital Investment Group, with money from high school classmates and their parents. In a Bloomberg profile , he claimed the principal of his high school invested with him. Subsequently he started another investment fund, Montgomery Assets. Both funds are currently inactive.
But the young investor, who has been called “The Wohl of Wall Street,” soon ran into trouble and has been investigated by multiple regulatory organizations. He also posted personal ads on Craigslist seeking attractive women while claiming to run a modeling agency, according to the Daily Beast . One woman accused him of posting her photo online, in a bra, as the “Wohl Girl of the Month” without her permission. The domain WohlGirls.com expired last month.
Wohl told JTA that he now does due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, though he would not reveal the name of his company or any further details.
“I’m not going to tell you because I don’t like journalists meddling in my private business,” he said. “It can only cause problems when journalists start meddling around in my employment situations and what I’m doing businesswise, as I’ve learned.”
Wohl was raised and still lives in Orange County, a politically conservative area of Southern California, in a Republican home. His father, David Wohl , is an attorney who has appeared on Fox News as a commentator and describes himself as a campaign surrogate for Trump. Wohl has followed in his father’s footsteps, appearing on Fox Business as early as 2015 to discuss his hedge fund.
His political activism ramped up with the start of Trump’s campaign in 2015, and since has skyrocketed. In addition to his Twitter activity, Wohl writes pieces for the right-wing site The Gateway Pundit, runs his own right-wing news site called The Washington Reporter and co-hosts a podcast with the independent journalist Laura Loomer called “2 Live Jew,” which is advertised as the “#1 Podcast for Jewish Trump Supporters.” Episode titles have included “The Caliphate Comes to Toronto” and “Full Commie.”
Vox.com has the best story on Wohl and the plot and you can read it here. From the Vox piece, these excerpts:
“When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” Mueller’s spokesperson said in a statement.
Exactly what was going on remains unclear — including the object of the apparent scheme. But it spilled into public view after pro-Trump Twitter personality Jacob Wohl ominously suggested Monday night that a story about such allegations was coming, and journalists who had heard about this shady operation reacted with alarm on Twitter, saying it seemed to be a smear attempt.
The key people involved to some extent appear to be:
- Jacob Wohl: a 20-year-old conservative who’s most famous for sending speedy sycophantic replies to Trump’s tweets and making implausible, factually dubious claims. He also ran some shady hedge funds.
- Jack Burkman: a Republican lobbyist and conspiracy theorist who has repeatedly made false claims to have bombshell political information (such as a mystery witness proving DNC staffer Seth Rich was murdered by the government, or someone who would come forward accusing a member of Congress of sexual harassment).
What we know so far is that:
- On October 17, a bunch of prominent reporters and Twitter personalities got a weird email, supposedly from a woman named “Lorraine,” who claimed that someone working for Jack Burkman had offered to pay her to make accusations of sexual misconduct against Mueller. However, no one has yet been able to verify her identity or that she even exists (and indeed, Burkman now claims that she “doesn’t exist”). The email may well be total bullshit.
- In any case, some recipients of this email got “Lorraine” to provide the info of the man who supposedly contacted her. They got in touch with him and were each told they were “in over your head” and to “drop” the matter. One says he then got a phone call from a man who identified himself as working for “Surefire Intelligence.”
- Around this time, Jack Burkman said on social media that he was trying to get women with allegations about Mueller to come forward. Jacob Wohl, meanwhile, claimed on Twitter to have heard a rumor that something like this would soon happen.
- On October 22, law professor Jennifer Taub got an email from someone with a Surefire Intelligence account, asking her about her “past encounters with Robert Mueller” and offering to “compensate” her for a phone call. Taub told the Atlantic that she’s never met Mueller, that she didn’t respond to the email, and that she forwarded the email to Mueller’s office.
- Finally, last night, Wohl tweeted: “Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!” Various journalists who received the “Lorraine” email then started tweeting about it, and opining that it was shady and unconvincing.
This caused the whole matter to spill out into public, and internet sleuths began to dig into Surefire Intelligence, the supposed private intelligence company investigating these allegations.
Wohl was publicly cagey about his involvement in Surefire or the plot generally. But Burkman freely told Hill Reporter that “Surefire is a real company” run by “Jacob Wohl.” And after journalists and online researchers got to work, it started to look like Surefire was … Jacob Wohl, and only Jacob Wohl.
- Surefire’s official phone number goes to Jacob Wohl’s mother’s voicemail.
- Wohl’s email is listed in the domain records for Surefire’s website.
- The office Surefire listed as its address is in fact occupied by a law firm that says it has nothing to do with them.
- An LLC with the company’s name was incorporated just a few weeks ago.
- LinkedIn profiles for several supposed Surefire employees use photos that are actually of other people (including model Bar Refaeli and actor Christoph Waltz).
- The photo for Surefire’s supposed “managing partner” appears to be of Wohl himself.
So, it looks like Surefire is essentially Better Call Saul’s Jimmy McGill doing a series of different voices over the phone to convince prosecutors that a whole church congregation supports his client. It is not clear if Burkman, who insisted Surefire was “real,” is also being tricked, or if he is a willing participant in this scam.
Wohl himself is being savaged on Twitter. Now that the FBI is involved, it’s about to get real for this young man from Orange County. You have to wonder what crime the FBI might level against Wohl.