UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. ...
Tom Williams

Scheme targeting Robert Mueller goes hilariously off the rails

The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/30/18, 9:33 PM ET

Bumbling Trump booster botches Mueller smear, implicates own mom

Ben Collins, NBC News tech and media reporter, talks with Rachel Maddow about an apparent bizarre effort to pay women to accuse Special Counsel Robert Mueller of sexual harassment, which was revealed to Mueller and referred to the FBI for criminal
You’ve heard the phrase, “It seemed like a good idea at the time”? The far-right scheme that targeted Robert Mueller was never a good idea.

Special counsel Robert Mueller last week asked the FBI to investigate a possible scam in which a woman would make false claims that he was guilty of sexual misconduct and harassment, after several political reporters were contacted about doing a story on the alleged misconduct.

Multiple reporters were contacted over the past few weeks by a woman who said she had been offered money to say she had been harassed by Mueller, the special counsel who is probing possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. After investigating, according to the political website Hill Reporter, the reporters each independently determined the allegations of misconduct and harassment were likely a hoax and that it was unclear if the woman had been offered money to make the claim. The reporters then contacted the special counsel’s office to report that they had been approached about the scheme.

If you saw Rachel’s segments on this last night, you know the bumbling narrative is kind of hilarious, in a cringe-worthy sort of way.

It started a couple of weeks ago when Jacob Wohl, a disgraced hedge fund manager who ended up peddling conspiracy theories in support of Donald Trump, published some missives about a burgeoning “scandal” involving the special counsel.

Wohl soon after said the public would learn the sordid details because his friend, Jack Burkman, a Republican lobbyist and radio host, had hired an intelligence firm called Surefire Intelligence to help uncover damaging revelations from Robert Mueller’s past.

All would be revealed tomorrow, Nov. 1, at a Holiday Inn just outside D.C.

To that end, a right-wing website called Gateway Pundit – which publishes pieces from Jacob Wohl – posted images from some kind of document, apparently prepared by Surefire Intelligence, detailing allegations against the special counsel.

Yesterday, however, was the day in which the scheme unraveled. A variety of reporters revealed that they’d heard from a woman who said she’d been contacted by Surefire Intelligence, which allegedly offered to pay her to make false claims about Mueller. Another woman said she, too, had heard from the same firm, offering her money for information related to Mueller, despite the fact that she’d never met him.

And while that’s clearly problematic on its face, the story took a weird turn when news organizations took a closer look at Surefire Intelligence and discovered that it may not exist in any meaningful way.

In fact, a published photo of the managing partner is apparently just Jacob Wohl using a different name. Other photographs of other supposed staffers at the “firm” appear to have been lifted from elsewhere, including one of actor Christopher Waltz.

This is my favorite excerpt from the NBC News report on all of this:

Wohl declined to comment on his involvement with Surefire Intelligence. However, his email is listed in the domain records for Surefire Intelligence’s website and calls to a number listed on the Surefire Intelligence website went to a voicemail message which provided another phone number, listed in public records as belonging to Wohl’s mother.

Wohl stopped responding to NBC News after being told Surefire’s official phone number redirects to his mother’s voicemail.

The whole thing has been referred to the FBI for scrutiny.

Scheme targeting Robert Mueller goes hilariously off the rails