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 falsifying allegations of sexual misconduct against 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’.”
This individual said that they were a female living in Fort Myers, Florida, but she would not speak to any reporters over the phone. Hill Reporter looked into this woman, as did many other journalists we have spoken with, and we all reached the conclusion that this was likely a hoax. No one by the name provided lives in Fort Myers, Florida according to the numerous background checks ran by the staff at Hill Reporter.
We also reached out to Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP who said “we have no record of this individual working for our firm.” They also confirmed that they had no record of the woman’s maiden name, as it was provided to Hill Reporter.
We decided to investigate this matter further to see who could be behind the apparent hoax. First, we reached out to a phone number given to us by the mysterious woman. After calling the number, we promptly received back what we viewed as a threatening text message which read, “You’re in over your head…. Drop this.” The message included the home addresses of two of our editors, including myself.
Suddenly, we received a phone call from another phone number originating from the same area code. The man on the other end of the line claimed to be Mike Wilcox of a company called ‘Surefire Intelligence.’ Wilcox again issued a threat, telling us to “stop communicating with” the woman who had contacted us previously. Both phone numbers have since been disconnected.
Around the same time as we and other journalists received this questionable email, a Republican lobbyist, radio host, and right-wing conspiracy theorist, Jack Burkman (also mentioned in the questionable email), began promoting, via his Facebook page, that he is investigating sexual misconduct and alcohol-related allegations against Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Between reporting the threatening text message and the phone call to the Special Counsel and discussing the matter with other well-known journalists, Hill Reporter reached out to Jack Burkman. Burkman would not discuss his investigation, other than telling us that he had “one woman ready to go public” and “discussions ongoing with a second [woman].” He then informed us that he is familiar with a company called “Surefire Intelligence” and that a man named Jacob Wohl runs the mysterious intelligence agency.
“Surefire is a real company, an intel operation in Los Angeles,” Burkman told Hill Reporter. ” We have known them for a long time. The guy’s name is Jacob Wohl. They do a lot of intel work. They do a lot of good research.”
Jacob Wohl, for those of you who are unaware, is a far-right Twitter troll who has had his own run-ins with the law in the past. Hill Reporter performed a DNS check on the domain name for Surefire Intelligence, which found that Wohl’s email address was listed on the SOA RNAME: record.
We reached out to Wohl for comment, and he denied knowing anything about Surefire Intelligence.
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Wohl claimed. “Maybe it’s the Russian(s)…. I’ve contacted that company and asked them to change whatever they need to change to ensure I’m not associated with them in any way.”
Wohl just so happened to make a tweet this morning, apparently advertising the fact that Burkman would soon release details of his Mueller investigation.
Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) October 30, 2018
Wohl told us that he is not connected to any Mueller investigation and that he has only “run into Jack Burkman a few times at Trump meetups.”
At first glance, a search for Surefire Intelligence brought up a bunch of question marks. Hill Reporter was unable to locate any business by the name of ‘Surefire Intelligence LLC’ or ‘Surefire Intelligence LTD.’, both names which have been listed on their website, as well as an invoice that Burkman sent us, claiming to have done business with the company.
Update: (5:22 PM EST) We received an email noting the company was incorporated on 10/9/2018 in Delaware. File number 7092759.
Calls to Surefire Intelligence’s claimed offices returned no answers and it doesn’t appear as though they have any real presence at any of the addresses listed for their multiple office locations throughout the world. The website and company appear to be largely fraudulent, although Jack Burkman claims otherwise. Further investigation into names listed on Surefire’s LinkedIn page has also come up empty, almost as if they were entirely made up.
Update: (5:42 PM EST): Twitter user Aric Toler appears to have proven that Surefire Intelligence faked employee accounts, at one point using a photoshopped picture of Christoph Waltz in one of the company’s employee profiles.
Surefire Intelligence's "Deputy Director of Operations" is a minister from Michigan. pic.twitter.com/xctCUHHgsC
— Aric Toler (@AricToler) October 30, 2018
On the internet, there is virtually no trace of Surefire Intelligence other than their own website, Twitter account and an article written by an author who also doesn’t appear to be real, and whose Twitter account appears to have been created for the sole purpose of promoting the article.
After reaching out to Peter Carr, the spokesman for the Special Counsel’s office, Carr told us that they have referred the matter to the FBI for investigation.
“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,” Carr said.
While the players involved — Burkman, a known conspiracy theorist and Wohl, a known Trump supporter and social media troll — certainly make one question what they may be trying to accomplish, there is little doubt that this whole charade is anything but legitimate. Are they trying to garner publicity for Burkman’s radio show? Are they trying to muddy the waters around the #metoo movement? Are they trying to discredit Robert Mueller ahead of the election? The questions are still piling up.
UPDATE (1:42PM ET): Further investigating by Hill Reporter’s Editor-In-Chief, James Kosur, has turned up additional links between Surefire Intelligence and Jacob Wohl. While Wohl claims to have no knowledge of Surefire Intelligence, source code on the website itself directly links Wohl to Surefire Intelligence.
While viewing the source files for SurefireIntelligence.com, we discovered that the website uses a Google cloud storage account named “user-14455949”. Further research shows that other websites on the internet which use this same Google account include a site named “Asset Management Firm | Jacob Wohl”. (see images below):
An archived Google search results image for RiskFreeGurus.com, a now-defunct website created on April 4, 2016, shows the websites previous Google Search result snippet. The search result claimed Jacob Wohl ran the company and that it was the “fastest growing real estate investment firm in Los Angeles.”
UPDATE (5:06 PM EST): New Yorker Staff Writer and “Dark Money” author Jane Mayer shared a tweet of the Surefire Intelligence’s Managing Partner and it’s an exact match (although darkened for effect) to one of Jacob Wohl’s own publicly available photos.
Odd. Jacob Wohl says he doesn't know nuttin' about Surefire Intelligence, the firm tied to the bizarre Mueller allegations. Take a look at the photos below of Mathhew Cohen, head of 'Surefire,' and of Jacob Wohl. pic.twitter.com/Q1rAW4wkPO
— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) October 30, 2018
Below you will find the letter received on October 18 by Hill Reporter and several other well-known journalists, as well as an invoice sent to us by Burkman.
UPDATE (4:48PM ET): After we broke this story early Tuesday morning, further details continued to surface. The most recent update suggests that a woman named Jennifer Taub, an associate professor at Vermont Law School also received an email.
A Surefire Intelligence email address was used for correspondence with Taub. On October 22 the email arrived with the following message: “It’s my understanding that you may have had some past encounters with Robert Mueller. I would like to discuss those encounters with you.”
Taub told The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand that she had never had any encounters with Robert Mueller.
Here’s the rest of the email correspondence between Taub and Surefire Intelligence:
“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 told Taub. “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.”
Update (5:54 PM EST): The Washington Post On Tuesday, August 3, 2010, noted that on Monday, August 2, 2010, Robert Mueller was serving jury duty in D.C. Superior Court. The intelligence report posted by Jacob Wohl on the website Gateway Pundit, and provided by an unknown firm that goes by the name “International Private Intelligence” claims Mueller raped a woman in NYC “on or about” the same day he was serving jury duty in Washington. D.C.
(Additional reporting by Brian Krassenstein and James Kosur)