Pro-Trump operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman have maybe scammed their last scam. No, they’re not dead; they’re just in big trouble. The duo were charged Thursday with a series of felonies for alleged voter intimidation by Michigan’s attorney general. This development will not surprise veteran Wohl watchers. The Daily Beast first reported in August that the right-wing wunderkind and his sidekick, Burkman, were being investigated as the source of robocalls designed to scare Detroit voters away from mail-in voting.
Thursday’s news has the feel of inevitability to it for other reasons, too. Wohl and Burkman specialize in highly publicized smear attempts that end in comprehensive failure. They recently tried to tag Dr. Anthony Fauci with a false sexual-assault claim. Last year, they invented a similar claim about Pete Buttigieg: The alleged victim later said that Burkman and Wohl impersonated him and lied to him, telling him “to come to DC to discuss political situations from the standpoint of a gay Republican.” Months later, the two men said they had proof that Senator Elizabeth Warren enjoyed a long-term sexual relationship with an extremely jacked former Marine.
The nation survived. Warren does not keep a former Marine on the side. Like all Wohl’s projects with Burkman, the story was a fabrication, but their bizarre scams had real victims. Diana Andrade, the woman they implicated in the scheme against Fauci, later told reporters that she had been in a relationship with Wohl, and that he had bribed and coerced her into making up the story.
Wohl’s and Burkman’s antics often have racist implications as well. They floated an early birther claim centered on Senator Kamala Harris. Working alongside Laura Loomer, a far-right commentator turned Republican congressional candidate, Wohl once accused Representative Ilhan Omar of having a sexual relationship with her own brother. The false claim persists on the right.
The alleged scheme targeting Detroit, which is majority-Black, has a similar basis in prejudice. As the Daily Beast originally reported, and the attorney general’s office confirmed, a woman describes herself as a representative of “Project 1599 … founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl.” She then warns voters that if they mail in their ballot instead of voting in person, a variety of horrors await: their personal information will wind up in a database used by police to track fugitives; credit card companies would use their information to collect debt; the Centers for Disease Control would use it to ‘track people for mandatory vaccines.’” (Michigan’s attorney general said authorities in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois reported similar robocalls targeting “urban areas with significant minority populations.”)
So Wohl and Burkman tried to scare minority voters by tapping into deep and real fears of police brutality and poverty. This is immoral and it’s also a serious crime. The men face five felonies each, which may land them in prison and with any luck, end their exploitation tour for good.