The October surprise that wasn’t… The failed Republican attempt to frame Robert Mueller for rape one week before the midterms

With momentum slowing for Republican candidates after the racist killings in Louisville, the anti-Semitic mass murder in Pittsburgh, and the attempted assassination of several prominent Democrats by a Trump supporter, the leaders of the far-right are doing everything in their power to turn things around before next Tuesday’s midterm election. They’re telling lies about protections for people with pre-existing conditions and middle class tax cuts that don’t exist. And, of course, they’re still sounding the racist dog whistle, although they seem to be playing down the big lie about the so-called caravan of refugees heading north from Central American for the time being, and instead talking about eliminating the 14th amendment to the Constitution, thereby ending what’s known as birthright citizenship. [By doing so, Trump can still excite the racist base, but in a way that doesn’t give them specific targets to go after with their assault weapons and pipe bombs.]

The most interesting thing to happen today, though, was that several right-wing media organizations ran stories about women coming forward to make serious sexual misconduct claims against special counsel Robert Mueller… stories which, for reasons that we’ll get into in a minute, would later have to be pulled.

Before we get into how the whole thing fell apart, here are a few social media posts from the two men most closely associated with the fake news story, pro-Trump conspiracy theorists Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl.

If Burkman’s name sounds familiar, it might be from back in 2017, when he publicly defended Roy Moore, claiming that the sexual misconduct charges against the judge were manufactured by Democrats. Burkman, at the time, said that, if he’d wanted to, he could frame anyone for sex crimes. “I can produce three women to say anything about anybody,” he said. And it looks as though that might be exactly what he did here… but we’ll get to that in a minute.

First, though, we should talk about how all of this played out. Burkman and Wohl, as you can see above, came out this morning, stating that women would be coming forward to accuse Robert Mueller of sexual misconduct, and even rape. And, this, as you might imagine, was quickly picked up by multiple right-wing websites. Shortly thereafter, however, news not only broke that a woman had come forward to the media stating that she’d been offered over $20,000 by Burkman to lie and swear that Mueller had sexually abused her, but that Mueller, having heard of this last week, had already requested that the FBI investigate the claims.

Here, by way of background, is an excerpt from a story that just ran in The Atlantic.

…The special counsel’s office confirmed that the scheme was brought to its attention by several journalists who were told about it by a woman alleging that she herself had been offered roughly $20,000 by a man claiming to work for a GOP activist named Jack Burkman “to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller.” The woman told journalists in an email, a copy of which I obtained, that she had worked for Mueller as a paralegal at the Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro law firm in 1974, but that she “didn’t see” him much. “When I did see him, he was always very polite to me, and was never inappropriate,” the woman wrote. The firm has not returned a request for comment about whether the woman actually worked there.

The woman explained that she was contacted by a man “with a British accent” who wanted to ask her “a couple questions about Robert Mueller, whom I worked with when I was a paralegal for Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro in 1974. 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. I reluctantly told [him] that I had only worked with Mr. Mueller for a short period of time, before leaving that firm to have my first son.”

She continued: “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.’” The man “offered to pay off all of my credit card debt, plus bring me a check for $20,000 if I would do” it, she wrote. “He knew exactly how much credit card debt I had, right down to the dollar, which sort of freaked me out.”

The woman was not willing to speak to the reporters by phone, according to Scott Stedman, one of the reporters who received the letter. So portions of her story have gone uncorroborated, and her identity has not been independently confirmed. Around the time that the journalists began receiving the email, however, Burkman released a video on his Facebook page claiming, without evidence, that Mueller “has a whole lifetime history of harassing women.” On Tuesday, the day the special counsel’s office revealed that it had referred the woman’s claims to the FBI, Burkman tweeted a similar allegation.

In an emailed statement, Burkman denied knowing the woman who originally alerted journalists to the alleged scheme and called the FBI referral “a joke, mueller wants to deflect attention from his sex assault troubles by attacking me.” He added in a separate email that “on Thursday 1200 NOON ROSSYLN HOLIDAY INN we will present a very credible witness who will allege that Mr. Mueller committed against her a sexual assault.” Mueller’s spokesman reiterated that the claims are false.

Burkman, a conservative radio host, is known for spreading conspiracy theories. He launched his own private investigation into the murder of the DNC staffer Seth Rich, dangled uncorroborated claims of sexual harassment against a sitting member of Congress, and earlier this year offered $25,000 to FBI whistle-blowers for any information exposing wrongdoing during the 2016 election. He also promoted legislation that he authored—despite not being a member of Congress—that would ban gays from playing in the National Football League, and has hosted two fundraisers for Rick Gates—the former Trump campaign official who was indicted by Mueller late last year…

When confronted about his role in this earlier today, Wohl denied that he had anything to do with attempts to pay women in exchange for their perjured testimony. He told NBC News that he had nothing whatsoever to do with Surefire Intelligence, the organization that these efforts had been tracked back to. Unfortunately for Wohl, though, when he set up the Surefire website, he used his mother’s telephone number.

And there we are. Wohl and Burkman are being questioned by the FBI, and even the right-wing “news” agencies like Gateway Pundit are running away from the story. The only question that remains, I think, is to what extent, if any, this poorly executed “rat fucking” campaign was orchestrated by Trump administration insiders like Roger Stone. And I guess we’ll have that answer soon enough.

As for why all of this is happen now, if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because they can sense taht the tide is turning against them, and they know, if the Democrats retake either house of Congress, they’re going to finally be held accountable for their actions. So this is it for them. If they’ve got a half-assed plan in the works, we’re going to see it this week. Nothing will be held back… God help us all.

Oh, and speaking of Wohl, he’s also the guy who said this.

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  1. iRobert
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    The very small minority of relatively decent Republican players can no longer keep the others in line. The most unethical and immoral elements of the Republican Party have taken over. A fight by the more decent element to regain control of the GOP is all but totally hopeless now.

    It’s essential that the Republicans get beat in every race where it’s possible. That’s up to all of us – the Democrats, the independents, and most criticality the sane and decent Republicans who would want to see their party made great again one day.

  2. Jean Henry
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    “Wohl stopped responding to NBC News after being told Surefire’s official phone number redirects to his mother’s voicemail”

    — Oh my. Thanks for that. I needed a laugh. That’s straight out of VEEP.

  3. Eel
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Word is that they still intend to go forward with their press conference on Thursday. I’m imagining Wohl’s mom being brought out in a wig.

  4. Sleeping Giants
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    The excitement on this platform over Jacob Wohl potentially going to prison could power the earth indefinitely.

  5. Eel
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    I want someone to look into the role Christopher Waltz played in this.

  6. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Before starting his career as an investigator of sex crimes, Wohl was a con man in the financial sector.

  7. John Brown
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Lets hope that the Republicans experiment with overt nazism is nearing its inevitable conclusion and they take their worst bigotry back underground. But I would expect the next couple of decades to be rife with stochastic terror regardless of the short term political outcomes. The millions of weapons and trillions of rounds of ammo in the hands of radical christo-fascist enemies of America aren’t going away with Agent Orange and his clown posse.

    Liberals will have no choice but to govern with increasing authority to keep things from boiling over and in that sense the authoritarians may lose this battle, but will nonetheless succeed at moving our governance to the right.

  8. iRobert
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    This is the downside of fashioning your strategy to appeal to the nuttiest morons in the country. Whereas admittedly it is certainly a huge and growing demographic, these loons do lots of really stupid and damaging things. They can’t be managed either, because they all see themselves as geniuses.

  9. Meta
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Jacob Wohl (20), who got his start in life as a wannabe teenage hedge fund manager, has the distinction of being the youngest person in U.S. history to be banned for life from the National Futures Association.

  10. Meta
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I think we might know why they’ve chosen to go after Mueller now.

    Politico: “Has Mueller Subpoenaed the President?”

    But now, thanks to Politico’s reporting (backed up by the simple gumshoe move of sitting in the clerk’s office waiting to see who walks in and requests what file), we may know what Mueller has been up to: Since mid-August, he may have been locked in proceedings with Trump and his lawyers over a grand jury subpoena—in secret litigation that could tell us by December whether the president will testify before Mueller’s grand jury.

    Read more:

  11. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    At this point, Trump might as well promise $1000 to every native born citizen with native born parents if the Republicans keep the house and senate. Whether or not he can keep this promise is not important. It’s his message of support. When it doesn’t happen, he’ll blame the government and ask that his authority be expanded.

  12. wobblie
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    But were the native born parents, native born? My mother is native born, so am I, so is my daughter. My mom’s parents did not become citizens till my mom was in her 20’s. My mom looses her citizenship and all subsequent generations? Counting her brothers and sisters children and grand-children and great grand children we are talking about several hundred folks just in my family–anchor generations.

  13. M
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Makes me long for the days when the bottom was James O’Keefe.

  14. M
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Esquire is speculating that Burkman was hired to take down Mueller.

  15. Lynne
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Well, it seems this one is a twofer. They could discredit Mueller *and* women making legitimate claims of sexual harassment at the same time. Fuck them!

  16. Meta
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Here’s the rest of the story from The Vermont Digger:”Surefire Intelligence asked Vermont Law School professor to smear Mueller”

    A “researcher” associated with a GOP activist known for peddling right-wing conspiracies sent an email to Vermont Law Professor Jennifer Taub last week, asking her if she would talk with him on the phone about “past encounters” with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

    Simon Frick of Surefire Intelligence wrote to Taub on Oct. 22 that his 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,” Frick continued.

    Taub, a legal scholar at the South Royalton law school, has never met Mueller. “The only time I’ve seen him is on TV,” she said in an interview with VTDigger.

    Taub said the email struck her as weird and suspicious, and she immediately forwarded it to the special counsel’s office. She heard nothing from the office and forgot about the incident until she read a story in the Atlantic published Tuesday afternoon about another woman who had been contacted by Surefire Intelligence. Taub reached out to the author, Natalie Bertrand, to share the email she received.

    Read more:

  17. Anonymous
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Wobblie, the cutoff for native born could be designated as 1970. Executive orders don’t need to be consistent with anything but their proclaimer.

  18. Kit
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Where are EOS and HW on this? I keep coming back, expecting to learn something about this important investigation into Mueller’s long history of rape.

  19. wobblie
    Posted October 31, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Anonymous, the cut off could be 1930–pick any date you like. At first I thought it was just my mom’s side of the family that was making us illegal. After all my dad’s family has been here since 1830–but damn it Grandpa married a Burgund, and her daddy had deserted the French army and stowed away on a cattle boat to get here–sounds like an undocumented alien.

    Kit, they are waiting for the 50,000 secret indictments to be released.

  20. M
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    40 seconds of good audio on Wohl from Pod Save America.

  21. John Brown
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Don’t spend too much time reveling in Wohls demise. Check out this crazy mofo that is actually an elected representative. We’re going to need a Christian ban if these nuts keep inciting domestic terrorist.

  22. anonimal
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    @John Brown
    Please tell me you aren’t serious about a Christian ban. I’ve heard some of the new athiests (sam harris and others) kick something like this around, and its terrifying. Yes Christians do some crazy crap, no, that doesn’t mean you can ban them from anything. I mean we’d have to ban Obama, Hillary (who is super-devout but doesn’t talk about it much), Biden, etc.

  23. John Brown
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Just a reference to the Muslim ban, when in fact this guys ideology is radicalized Christian that ironically mirrors ISIS. “Religious extremist” ban, how’s that? But nobody’s appointed me Holy Roller Wrangler yet, so he will continue to be a threat to America.

    Google him. He wants to kill all resisting males and presumably breed the females a la Gilead.

  24. Lynne
    Posted November 1, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    I am cool with banning anyone who wants to breed females a la Gilead.

  25. Yanni
    Posted November 2, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    So now that Thursday has come and gone, may I ask; “What happened with that huge October surprise sexual assault and rape allegation about Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller” that we were going to hear about, courtesy of America’s favorite right-wing conspiracy theorist – Jack Burkman?
    Jack, Where is the beef?
    No cigars?
    Thanks for the good work Mark.

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