A press conference intended to publicize sexual assault claims against special counsel Robert Mueller collapsed in spectacular fashion on Thursday, after the pro-Trump operatives behind the event failed to demonstrate a grasp of even basic details about their accuser or explain why they had repeatedly lied about their project.
Mueller has asked the FBI to investigate the effort from publicity-hungry Washington lobbyist Jack Burkman and pro-Trump Twitter personality Jacob Wohl, which has been dogged by accusations that they offered women money to accuse Mueller of sexual misconduct.
But the prospect of an FBI investigation was the least of Wohl and Burkman’s problems on Thursday.
Throughout their 45-minute press conference, the two men repeatedly contradicted themselves and each other, giving cryptic non-answers that convinced approximately zero people in attendance that their allegations were anywhere close to the truth.
It began much like it ended.
After initially promising that the accuser, a fashion designer named Carolyne Cass, would appear alongside them, Burkman and Wohl seemed to change their minds by the time reporters assembled inside the dimly lit Holiday Inn in Rosslyn, Virginia.
Cass had “panicked,” they said, after arriving in Washington and quickly took another flight to an unnamed location.
Without an in-person accuser, Wohl and Burkman instead offered a signed affidavit from her that claimed Mueller raped her in a New York hotel room on Aug. 2, 2010.
No other evidence was given, aside from a print-out Wohl had distributed that noted Mueller had been in New York on Aug. 5, 2010. Left unsaid: That was three days after the alleged attack.
Additionally, they accused Mueller’s team of “leaking” a Washington Post story that undermined their tale. The report showed Mueller was in Washington on Aug. 2 serving a jury duty summons.
Despite their claim of an exhaustive investigation of the allegations, Wohl and Burkman failed to spell the accuser’s name correctly.
Cass’ first name is misspelled as “Carolyn,” without an “e” in the affidavit, and Burkman insisted that her name was spelled without an “e” when asked by reporters. Only after repeated pressing did Burkman concede that her name is actually “Carolyne.”
“Even the Declaration of Independence had misspellings,” Burkman quipped.
Burkman claims to represent Cass, and he said she hasn’t reported her allegations to New York police.
Other allegations the duo had made earlier fell apart as well. Burkman had previously claimed that he had seven women willing to accuse Mueller. Wohl eventually conceded that they did not have seven women with accusations against Mueller.
Allegations that accusers were being paid have swirled around the effort. In October, a number of media outlets, including The Daily Beast, received an email from a “Lorraine Parsons” who said Burkman’s associates were offering her tens of thousands of dollars to accuse Mueller. And on Tuesday, Vermont Law School professor Jen Taub also told The Atlantic that she’d been offered money to accuse Mueller.
Wohl and Burkman were reluctant to explain how Wohl, who claimed he first worked with Cass on an unrelated estate issue, was first in contact with their accuser. They also failed to explain where Mueller’s FBI security detail was when he was supposedly assaulting a woman.
And Wohl was cryptic about other details, too—he repeatedly declined to say whether he has a private investigator license. Eventually, Wohl said he sometimes works with licensed private investigators. Wohl’s name isn’t in a database of licensed private investigators maintained by the state of California, where he lives.
The two men even declined to say how they knew each other.
Burkman said only that their meeting was “synergistic.”
Wohl, who is better known as a pro-Trump partisan on Twitter than any sort of sleuth, initially tried to hide his role in the effort. Wohl insisted earlier this week that he wasn’t the head of “Surefire Intelligence,” the previously little known investigations firm that compiled Cass’ allegations.
Surefire at first claimed to be a group of ex-intelligence agents from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. But Wohl was forced to concede otherwise after a number of digital footprints, including clues on Surefire’s website and a company phone number that linked to Wohl’s mother, proved he was behind it.
A number of LinkedIn accounts for the firm’s “staff” were also revealed as stolen headshots from models and Hollywood celebrities. But Wohl, who insisted he wasn’t behind the fake LinkedIn pages, said he had to lie about the firm for investigative purposes.
“It was important that I preserved my anonymity,” Wohl said.
The allegations from Wohl and Burkman have struggled to gain traction even in the right-wing media. The Gateway Pundit, a pro-Trump site that Wohl writes for and which frequently runs hoaxes as actual news, initially published Cass’ affidavit.
But it has since backtracked, pulling down the document and stressing that the post was Wohl’s responsibility alone. A reporter from Gateway Pundit asked Wohl tough questions at the press conference, suggesting that even his sometime -employer isn’t convinced of his claims. After the press conference, Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft published a post saying the site had “suspended our relationship” with Wohl.
The event was reminiscent of other failed Burkman press conferences, including several he’s held on the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. Burkman attached himself to the investigation of the former Democratic National Committee staffer’s murder in 2016 but has frequently failed to make good on his claims. Burkman’s previous flops included a botched press conference in which he promised and failed to deliver a deep-state representative who would say Rich was killed by government hit men.
At times, the event resembled a real-life version of the Twitter fights Wohl often engages in. Wohl complained that someone online had photoshopped a picture of him turning into a corncob—a reference to a popular tweet about someone doubling down in the face of internet embarrassment.
Burkman defended Wohl, 20, from charges that he doesn’t have enough experience to investigate such a serious charge against Mueller.
“I think Jacob is a child prodigy who has eclipsed Mozart,” Burkman said.
A heckler cut in, yelling that Wohl couldn’t even open an eTrade account—a reference to Wohl’s lifetime ban from futures trading, a penalty he earned in a previous career as a teenage hedge fund operator.
In the face of unanswered questions from the press, Burkman and Wohl headed to their car followed by reporters. But Burkman promised more details to come at an unspecified future press conference.