The Holiday Inn in Rosslyn, Virginia, is a nondescript building that easily blends into the dull neighborhood of offices just outside of Washington. But for an hour on Thursday, November 1, the budget hotel felt like a dreamworld—an alternative universe of alternative facts.
D.C. lobbyist and conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman was joined at a press conference by Jacob Wohl, a 20-year-old blogger for the right-wing, facts-optional website Gateway Pundit, to allege that special counsel Robert Mueller had raped a woman in 2010.
Documents distributed to a couple dozen reporters in attendance named a woman who allegedly claims she was raped “on or about August 2, 2010,” at the St. Regis hotel in New York City.
There were a few problems.
The woman—identified in the documents as Carolyne Cass—had flown from Los Angeles to Washington to attend the press conference but then became too scared to do so and boarded a flight to another city, according to Wohl. He described Cass as a 34-year-old fashion designer from Los Angeles who attended the Art Institute of Dallas and “Parsons at NYU” (Parsons is actually at the New School). “Carolyne Cass attended Parsons from 2006 to 2010 but did not earn a degree,” a Parsons spokeswoman told The Weekly Standard. No media outlet was able to reach Cass by the time this story went to press, and Wohl declined to confirm her phone number. Burkman insisted Cass would speak publicly at a “future date very soon.”
Nevertheless, even in the absence of the alleged victim, Wohl and Burkman persisted with their press conference. The date given in the Wohl documents—“on or about August 2, 2010”—was also problematic. As the Washington Post reported on August 3, 2010:
Robert Mueller [was spotted] dutifully doing his jury duty in D.C. Superior Court on Monday. The FBI director (with an ear-pieced security guy in tow) made it all the way into the jury box for voir dire on a gun-possession case and got a warm smile from the judge . . . but he was quickly excused (the “work in law enforcement?” question seemed to do it).
“Was [Mueller] only at jury duty?” Wohl asked at the press conference. “Sometimes people go to jury duty, but they’re also somewhere else.” Wohl and Burkman pointed out that Mueller, according to an August 6, 2010, press release on the FBI’s website, had spoken at a cybersecurity conference in New York, which lasted from August 2 to August 5. The press release didn’t specify the date of Mueller’s speech. He delivered it on August 5.
Burkman and Wohl’s story gave every appearance of being a farce—a sick one, to be sure—in the days leading up to the press conference. On October 30, the Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand reported that journalists had received an email from a “Lorraine Parsons” alleging she had been offered money to say Mueller had assaulted her.
No one has been able to confirm whether Parsons is a real person. But a woman named Jennifer Taub, a Vermont law professor, had received an email, apparently from a firm calling itself “Surefire Intelligence,” offering money to Taub to discuss her “encounters” with Mueller. The Atlantic’s Bertrand reported: “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.”
Meanwhile, the special counsel’s office issued a rare statement: “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.”
Wohl at that point denied any connection to Surefire Intelligence. “I don’t have any involvement in any investigations of any kind,” he told NBC News. Then reporters discovered that a number of photos of the Surefire Intelligence team were stock photos. One image was of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli. Another darkened image, when brightened, turned out to be of Wohl himself. And the phone number for Surefire Intelligence, NBC discovered, went to a voicemail message directing callers to a phone number that belongs to Wohl’s mother.
At the Rosslyn press conference, Wohl copped to being behind Surefire Intelligence. He said he never contacted Taub or a “Lorraine Parsons.” He had lied about Surefire two days earlier because his investigation was “still in flux.” The totality of that investigation, according to documents provided to reporters on November 1, was the alleged statement of Carolyne Cass, which had been published by Gateway Pundit on October 30 but then quickly taken down. (In a note that replaced the documents, Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft announced that he would be investigating Wohl. Later in the week, Hoft would write: “The Gateway Pundit suspended our relationship with Jacob. We need to collect more information on this explosive situation. We are not afraid to take chances as you well know but we want to also be careful and accurate.”)
At the press conference, Burkman denied that he “or Jacob or others paid or attempted to pay some woman for coming forward. None of this is true.” But back in May, Burkman held another press conference at the same Holiday Inn. “URGENT MEDIA ALERT: Jack Burkman joins Larry Klayman to offer major reward for information regarding Mueller during joint press conference,” read the press release.
Burkman is best known, to the extent he is known at all, as a driving force behind the evidence-free conspiracy theory that Seth Rich, a former staffer at the Democratic National Committee, was murdered by nefarious political actors. The conspiracy, promoted by stalwart defenders of President Trump, held that Rich was the likely source of Democrats’ emails provided to WikiLeaks and that he was killed to keep him from talking. Burkman claims that his crucial work on the Seth Rich case resulted in Burkman’s being shot twice and run over by an SUV. “It takes more than a few bullets to stop me,” he said in one press release.
Wohl claims Cass first contacted Surefire Intelligence about an “estate matter” involving a “dishonest accountant” in February 2018. So I asked him at the press conference how Cass contacted Surefire when Surefire didn’t have a website at the time. “She found me over the Internet,” Wohl replied. “It was either Angie’s List or Craigslist.”
Wohl says that Cass contacted him again around October 1, after seeing for the first time a photo of Mueller, who was named special counsel in May 2017. Why hadn’t Cass previously seen a photo of one of the most famous men in the news in the previous 15 months? According to Wohl, she’s not political and doesn’t watch the news. “She doesn’t even own a TV,” he told me after the press conference.
As of press time, Wohl hadn’t yet provided TWS with any evidence he had taken out a Craigslist or Angie’s List ad in early 2018. But he was adamant that, out of 330 million people in the United States, one of the few people who saw his Internet ad and contacted him was a woman who would realize for the first time in September 2018 that Robert Mueller was her alleged rapist. What are the odds?
Just before the press conference ended, one attendee asked Burkman and Wohl: “Are you both prepared for federal prison?”
“Ah, no, we are not,” Burkman replied.
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