MI AG Charges Far-Right Hoaxsters For Robocalls With False Vote-By-Mail Claims

Lobbyist Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl during a press conference. (Tierney Sneed/TPM)
October 1, 2020 5:19 p.m.

Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl — a President Trump-loving duo who were behind a series of notoriously outlandish schemes to smear Trump’s opponents — face felony charges for their alleged involvement in robocalls that spread false claims about voting by mail.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel unveiled the charges Thursday. Among them are charges of voter intimidation and conspiracy to commit an election law violation.

“Any effort to interfere with, intimidate or intentionally mislead Michigan voters will be met with swift and severe consequences,” Nessel said. “This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election.”

“We’re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cell phones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy and the principles upon which it was built,” she continued. “Michigan voters are entitled to a full, free and fair election in November and my office will not hesitate to pursue those who jeopardize that.”

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Nessel and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced their inquiries into the calls, which were first picked up in Detroit, in August. The calls told the recipients falsely that voting by mail would put their information in databases used for arrest warrants, debt collection and “mandatory vaccines.” The robocalls fashioned themselves as coming from a group led by Wohl and Burkman.

In denying his involvement to TPM in August, Burkman claimed that “no one in their right mind would put their cell in robo call.”

According to Thursday’s announcement, the robocalls went out to nearly 12,000 residents in Detroit. Attorneys general offices in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois also told Nessel that there were similar calls in their states, Nessel’s announcement said.

Additionally she received assistance in the investigation from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The announcement said that charges had been filed Thursday in the 36th District Court in Detroit. Arraignment is pending for the defendants.

“The Attorney General’s office will be working – with local law enforcement if necessary – to secure the appearance of each defendant in Michigan,” the announcement said. “It’s too early to say if formal extradition will be necessary or if they will present themselves here voluntarily in the very near future.”

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