Hands typing on laptop; code appears on the screen.

Special Counsel’s Office Asks FBI to Investigate Smear Scheme

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has referred a possible scam to the Federal Bureau of Investigation after a number of reporters were contacted by someone apparently shopping a story about him sexually assaulting unidentified women:

13 days ago I received this tip alleging an attempt to pay off women to make up accusations of sexual misconduct against Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Other reporters received the same email. Now the Special Counsel’s office is telling us they’ve referred the matter to the FBI pic.twitter.com/oqh4Fnel5u

— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) October 30, 2018

Disinformation purveyors had already been teasing a major story involving Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation into the 2016 presidential campaign and election has been going on since May 17th, 2017.

“Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow,” Wohl, a former teenage hedge fund manager who is now permanently banned by the National Futures Association for fraudulent activity and failure to comply with the ensuing investigation, tweeted on October 29th. “Stay tuned!”

“Some sad news,” added Jack Burkman, a self-styled “political operative” who until now was perhaps best known for pushing baseless conspiracy theories about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich that Fox News and the Washington Times then had to fully retract (although Fox’s statement has promised to “continue to investigate this story and will provide updates as warranted” since May 2017.) “On Thursday, November 1, at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn at noon, we will reveal the first of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sex assault victims. I applaud the courage and dignity and grace and strength of my client.”

Disinformation site GatewayPundit.com, which was sued more than once in 2017 over its unreliable and misleading coverage of the Charlottesville protests (including publicly naming and smearing an innocent teenager who the site falsely claimed murdered Heather Heyer) picked up on the clarion call almost immediately:

What we know: The woman is a “very credible witness.” Her story are corroborated. The incident happened in 2010 in New York City. The woman is a professional.
The Mueller apologists are already trashing the accuser — and don’t even know who she is!

The story was bolstered by documents not from law enforcement or even a lawyer, but from shadowy “private investigation firms.”

The story fell apart almost immediately, not least because left-leaning political news site HillReporter.com published a story on the scheme just before it started to go viral:

Peter Carr, spokesman for the Special Counsel’s office to Hill Reporter:“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.”

A little over a week ago several journalists, including myself, received an email from an individual claiming to have been offered money in exchange for alleging sexual misconduct on the part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“I was contacted via phone call by a man named Bill Christensen, who had a British accent, and said that he would like to ask me a couple of questions about Robert Mueller, whom I worked with when I was a paralegal for Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro in 1974 (now called Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman),” the individual claimed. “I asked him who he was working for, and he told me his boss was some sort of politics guy in Washington named Jack Burkman (or Berkman… Not sure how it’s spelled)…….….He (Bill Christensen) then offered to pay off all of my credit card debt, plus bring me a check for $20,000 if I would do one thing.

In more of an effort to get him to go away than anything else, I asked him what in the hell he wanted me to do. He said that we could not talk about it on the phone, and he asked me to download an app on my phone called Signal, which he said was more secure. Reluctantly, I downloaded the app and he called me on that app a few minutes later. He said (and I will never forget exactly what it was) ‘I want you to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller, and I want you to sign a sworn affidavit to that effect’.”

As more political reporters came forward to say they had had similar experiences, law professor Jennifer Taub revealed that she had been approached by someone offering to pay her to discuss her encounters with Robert Mueller, whom she does not know:

Jennifer Taub, an associate professor at Vermont Law School, received an email from a man using a Surefire Intelligence email address around the same time, on October 22. “It’s my understanding that you may have had some past encounters with Robert Mueller,” he told Taub, according to the email she forwarded me on Tuesday afternoon. “I would like to discuss those encounters with you.” (Taub told me she has never had any encounters with Mueller, though she does appear on CNN at times as an expert commentator on the Mueller probe.)

“I believe a basic telephone call, for which I would compensate you at whatever rate you see fit (inside reason), would be a good place to start,” the man continued. “My organization is conducting an examination of Robert Mueller’s past. Tell me a decent method to contact you by telephone (or Signal, which would be ideal) and a beginning rate to talk with you about all encounters you’ve had with Special Counsel Mueller. We would likewise pay you for any references that you may have. Lastly, I would appreciate your discretion here, as this is a very sensitive matter.” Taub told me she forwarded the email to the special counsel’s office, noting that she did not plan to respond.

The investigative team at Bellingcat dug into Surefire Intelligence, quickly tracing it back to none other than Jacob Wohl:

The “intelligence firm” that prepared the allegation, SureFire Intelligence, was linked to Wohl due to DNS registration records saved on CuteStat.com. These records show that someone using the email [email protected] was involved with the domain registration for surefireintelligence.com.


When searching for the various employees who list their employment as SureFire Intelligence, nearly all of them use stolen profile photographs. In particular, many of these photographs use the sepia-toned filter that was likely used to disrupt reverse image search algorithms.

Their “Tel Aviv Station Chief” uses the a photograph of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli.

It is an uncommonly clear look into how the “fake news” ecosystem is managed and how disinformation is pushed into the public discourse via coordinated efforts, including — but not limited to — shell companies, fake employees, and calculated timing.

Not long after its original story fell apart, GatewayPundit.com removed the text and replaced it with the following:

Earlier today we were given information on accusations against former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

We took the documents down and we are currently investigating these accusations.

There are also very serious allegations against Jacob Wohl.
We are also looking into this.

On November 1, 2018, the press conference proceeded as planned, with predictable results:

The Wohl / Burkman press conference has been stymied by the fact that their much-hyped witness failed to show at all. pic.twitter.com/kDbj8bj8V8

— Will Sommer (@willsommer) November 1, 2018

Wohl and Burkman would go on to engage in a more elaborate scam heading into the 2020 presidential election — designing and activating thousands of “robocalls” targeting Black communities in several states with voter suppression. In November 2022, the pair pled guilty in Ohio to one count of telecommunications fraud. They were each fined $2,500 and placed on probation, and also ordered to spend 500 hours registering actual voters in “low-income neighborhoods” in Washington D.C.

According to a February 2023 story in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer newspaper, emails collected by prosecutors showed that the duo was willing to lie to reporters while reveling in media attention to their scheme.

The emails showed that they denied involvement in the robocall scam — which produced 267,000 calls to households — to the Daily Beast news site and the Associated Press while also claiming that they would file a “$300 million dollar defamation action” against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel for investigating them. The newspaper also reported:

In an email to another reporter, Burkman falsely speculated that the calls could have been connected to billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

Burkman also wrote that he and Wohl had “politely declined” requests from [Donald] Trump’s presidential campaign to produce robocalls in the past.

“We don’t do that stuff,” Burkman wrote.

Burkman and Wohl are reportedly facing pending criminal charges in Michigan.

Update 2/9/2023, 1:29 p.m. PST: This story has been updated to reflect Wohl and Burkman pleading guilty to charges in Ohio of one count of telecommunications fraud and facing similar charges in Michigan. — ag