Salacious and unfounded accusations that special counsel Robert Mueller engaged in sexual misconduct were even a bridge too far for the far-right conspiracy website Gateway Pundit, which had posted “exclusive documents” Tuesday alleging a 2010 rape, only to take them down a few hours later as scrutiny of the other conservative activists hyping the allegations grew.
The website’s founder Jim Hoft (pictured above) took down the documents Tuesday evening, after they had been posted for about five hours. Hoft updated the post with a note saying the site was investigating the allegations.
“There are also very serious allegations against Jacob Wohl. We are also looking into this,” the post said.
Jacob Wohl is a pro-Trump Twitter personality who appears tied to a supposed private intel firm, Surefire Intelligence, that was revealed to be bogus as reporters began looking into sketchy allegations of a payoff scheme for Mueller accusers.
By Wednesday the Gateway Pundit post had been updated to indicate his plans to interview Wohl and post that interview once it happened. The post also noted that it had spoken to Jack Burkman, another conservative publicity-hound involved in the apparent smear campaign against Mueller.
Burkman is a GOP lobbyist and Mueller critic who has said he would be unveiling allegations against the special counsel at a press conference Thursday.
Gateway Pundit did not respond to TPM’s inquiry about whether Burkman or Wohl had given the website the “exclusive documents,” which were redacted and bore the the header “International Private Intelligence.”
They were posted after Burkman and Wohl had floated that were was a “sad” and “scandalous” story about Mueller that would be coming out this week. At the same time, reporters came forward about a weird email a number of outlets, including TPM, received from someone who had claimed to have worked with Mueller in the 1970s and who said she was offered thousands of dollars to make allegations against him. The email claimed that she was told by the man who offered her the payoff that he was working for Burkman.
Burkman has denied that he offered person named in the email a payoff.
A spokesman for the special counsel said Tuesday that the matter had been referred to the FBI.
Meanwhile, as reporters had tried to dig into the claims of a payoff scheme, they struggled to corroborate any of the details in the account, including whether the woman who was named as the sender of the email actually exists. In the course of the reporting, Surefire Intelligence came up. The company was name-checked by someone who called and threatened one lefty Twitter activist digging into the allegations. Wohl himself told the Daily Beast that a “Matthew Cohen” — listed on LinkedIn as a managing partner at Surefire Intelligence — was helping Burkman investigate the allegations he was bringing against Mueller.
There were indications — including in the firm website’s domain records and on a voicemail that led callers to another phone number belonging to Wohl’s mother — that he was behind “Surefire Intelligence,” though he has denied involvement. Reverse image searches on the LinkedIn photos of individuals listed as firm employees revealed the photos had been poached from those of actors, models and stock photo images.
Burkman is now claiming that the account of payoffs being offered for accusers was a “hoax designed to distract the nation from my press conference.”