Jack Burkman is a Republican lobbyist and commentator who has peddled prominent conspiracy theories and who claims – without providing evidence – that special counsel Robert Mueller committed sexual misconduct.
Burkman has not yet produced a name or any corroboration to back up his Mueller claims. But the entire twisted tale has quickly grown more complicated as multiple national journalists claimed that a person using the name Lorraine Parsons, of Fort Myers, Florida, alleged that Burkman was tied to an attempt to pay her money to falsely accuse Mueller. Burkman denies these accusations. (Update: On November 1, 2018, Burkman and Jacob Wohl released a woman’s name at a press conference but she didn’t show up. You can read all about that here. Wohl now admits he is behind a company called Surefire Intelligence after previously denying it.)
“Lorraine Parsons” declined to speak by telephone to various journalists, who could not confirm information about her, including whether that’s the real name of the person emailing journalists or whether a Lorraine Parsons exists at all.
On the same day, it was revealed Mueller’s office has referred a plot to the FBI involving alleged attempts to pay women to make false sexual misconduct accusations against the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller’s office did not release any names or details associated with that investigation, however. Over the years, Jack Burkman has been involved in several high-profile efforts that didn’t all come to fruition.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jack Burkman Says He’s Revealing the Name of a Woman Accusing Mueller
The same day that the journalists were revealing Lorraine Parsons’ name and Mueller’s office was announcing it had referred a matter to the FBI, Burkman announced on Twitter on October 30, 2018, “Some sad news. On Thursday, November 1, at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn at noon, we will reveal the first of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sex assault victims. I applaud the courage and dignity and grace and strength of my client.”
The name of the client is not clear.
When it learned of the alleged scheme to pay off women to lie about Mueller, the special counsel’s office referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to The Atlantic.
“When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation,” the spokesman for Mueller, Peter Carr, told the Atlantic on October 30, 2018.
The Atlantic reported that journalists brought the matter to the attention of Mueller’s office after the woman alleged to them in writing that “she herself had been offered roughly $20,000 by a man claiming to work for a GOP activist named Jack Burkman ‘to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller.'”
Burkman wrote on Twitter, “The allegations of paying a woman are false. The left is trying to defend Mueller against sex assault allegations so they attack me in desperation. The establishment media knows that Mueller may go down over this — they want to deflect attention.” On Twitter, Burkman’s profile reads, “Host of Behind the Curtain, national radio and TV talk show on @newsmaxTV Sat A.M. Registered lobbyist. Conservative News & Commentary.”
Scott Bixby, national reporter for the Daily Beast, also attached the name Lorraine Parsons to the story, writing on Twitter, “A person who identifies herself as Florida resident ‘Lorraine Parsons’ claims Jack Burkman and his associates are pressuring her to ‘make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller’ in exchange for a five-figure sum.”
The office of Mueller, the former FBI director, did not release further details and did not use Lorraine Parsons’ or Jack Burkman’s names.
“The woman, Lorraine Parsons of Fort Myers, Florida, said a man named Bill Christensen knew exactly how much credit card debt she had and was willing to orchestrate paying off $34,000 — in addition to cutting a check for $20,000 if she made allegations,” reported Politico.
Burkman told The Daily Caller that it is “totally false” that he was involved in any scheme to pay off women to smear Mueller.
2. Jack Burkman Was Involved in Peddling Conspiracy Theories Against DNC Staffer Seth Rich & Made Unproven Allegations Against a Congressman
A 2017 article in Mother Jones on Jack Burkman described him as a “lobbyist detective” and detailed his efforts to look into the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, who has been the subject of unproven conspiracy theories among some on the right. In 2016, Rich was shot and killed in an unsolved murder along a Washington D.C. street. The notion that Rich was killed because he was somehow involved in leaked and/or hacked emails to hurt the Hillary Clinton campaign is the fodder of online conspiracy theorists, but there’s no evidence backing up any of the theories.
The Mother Jones story reports that Burkman “managed to put himself at the center of it all,” offering a $100,000 reward to find Rich’s killer and staging a reenactment of his murder. The Washingtonian reports that Rich’s parents now “want nothing to do with him” and have asked the public to stop spreading conspiracy theories about his death, with police indicating it could be the result of a robbery attempt.
Daily Beast reports that Burkman previously claimed he had a witness in the Rich case but none materialized.
You can see a listing of Burkman’s lobbying efforts here. Open Secrets.org lists Burkman’s educational background as: “1988, B.A., University of Pittsburgh, PA; 1992, J.D., Georgetown University, DC, summa cum laude; 1992, M.S.F.S., Georgetown University, DC, magna cum laude.”
In 2017, Jack Burkman drew top news outlets to a press conference promising sexual harassment allegations against a congressman, the Washingtonian reported. However, once they arrived, Burkman called off the whole thing, saying his client, who was named, “is just unfortunately not able to join us this morning. I apologize to you so greatly for wasting your time.”
The Washingtonian reports that Burkman tried to get involved in the #metoo movement in other ways, offering free legal representation to the accusers of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. He once said he was involved in a reality show on lobbyists but it never happened, the site reports.
3. Jack Burkman Once Worked for Rick Lazio & Has a YouTube Channel Where He Posts Political Commentary
According to Mother Jones, Burkman went to law school and then worked for then New York Republican Rep. Rick Lazio before becoming a lobbyist at the Smith-Free Group and later his own firm, J.M. Burkman & Associates. The magazine reports that Burkman went on TV to push the Whitewater theories against the Clintons.
He’s styled himself as a conservative pundit. He has a YouTube channel and a radio show, but the videos on his YouTube site don’t have many hits. The videos are called things like “The Mob Mentality of The Left – Behind the Curtain with Jack Burkman” and “Rant Of The Week: Christine Ford’s story Is a Scam!”
On YouTube, Burkman wrote, “Welcome to a different kind of political talk show. Jack Burkman is a Washington DC lawyer and a lobbyist who has been working K Street and the halls of Congress for over 30 years. Now he brings his connections and insight to today’s top news stories and gives you not only the – what – but also the why! What is driving the issue in DC and who is driving the issue?” He said that he went to parties and balls and heard things other people don’t.
Politico further reports that Burkman organized a legal defense fund for once Paul Manafort ally Rick Gates (who was charged as a result of the Mueller probe).
4. Burkman Once Wanted the NFL to Ban Gay Athletes & Has Gone Back & Forth on Donald Trump
In 2014, The Hill reported that Jack Burkman, labeled a “washington lobbyist” by the publication, had announced that he was “preparing legislation that would ban gay athletes from joining the National Football League.”
Burkman said he was inspired by Michael Sam’s coming out, according to the Hill, and released a statement reading, “We are losing our decency as a nation. Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?”
At the time, reported the Hill, Burkman was serving “as founder and president of his own lobbying firm, Burkman Associates. He has also worked as of counsel at law firm Holland & Knight,” but the latter firm condemned Burkman’s efforts on the NFL to The Hill, saying he worked at that firm from 1998 to May 2002.
Dr. Jim Burkman, an anesthesiologist from Seattle who is the brother of Jack Burkman, criticized Burkman to The Huffington Post.
Jim Burkman said he is gay and added to HuffPo, “I think the idea that he is pushing legislation that is just hurtful and ridiculous is just plain stupid. He is not a legislator and he can’t really push legislation. I don’t think there are any cosponsors for a bill. It is just an attention grab and a media grab to pander to those folks who pay him to lobby on their behalf.”
The Washingtonian adds of Jack Burkman: “his criticism of NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice included donning a wig intended to resemble the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s hair.”
Rolling Stone reports that Jack Burkman has not always been a firm supporter of Donald Trump. He supported Jeb Bush in the Republican primary for president and “took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Daily News calling Trump a ‘joke’ with ‘no moral compass'” but then said he would raise $200 million for Trump when Trump became the Republican nominee. According to Rolling Stone, Burkman then cancelled a fundraiser “on receipt of a threatening letter from the candidate’s attorneys.”
Burkman told Rolling Stone of Trump at that time, “His temperament and his intellect are lacking in the ways needed to be president.”
5. ‘Lorraine Parsons’ Allegedly Sent Journalists an Email Saying a Man Offered to Pay Her Credit Card Debt Off
Journalist Yashar Ali posted a partially blacked out version of the woman’s email to journalists on Twitter, which you can read above. Ali wrote on Twitter, “13 days ago I received this tip alleging an attempt to pay off women to make up accusations of sexual misconduct against Special Counsel Bob Mueller. Other reporters received the same email. Now the Special Counsel’s office is telling us they’ve referred the matter to the FBI.”
The email was titled “Urgent News Tip.” Although Ali blacked out the names in it, as noted, other journalists say the woman claimed to be Lorraine Parsons.
This is what the email reads, per the Ali post:
Hi, My name is (blacked out). I was contacted via phone call by a man named Bill (blacked out) who had a British accent, and said that he would like to ask me a couple of questions about Robert Mueller, whom I worked with when I was a paralegal for Pillsbury, Madison, and Sutro in 1974 (now called Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman). I asked him who he was working for for (sic), and he told me his boss was some sort of politics guy in Washington named Jack Burkman (or Berkman..not sure how it’s spelled). I’m not sure how he knew that I ever worked there or worked with Robert Mueller. I reluctantly told Mr. (blacked out) that I had only worked with Mr. Mueller for a short period of time, before leaving that firm to have my first son. Mr. (blacked out) then changed his tone, and mentioned that he might be able to help me pay off some debt. He knew exactly how much credit card debt I had, right down to the dollar, which sort of freaked me out. (My late husband was quite a big spender, and we had run up about $34,000 on our credit cards.) I askd (sic) him, why exactly he would do something like that? He said it’s not that simple. And that he wanted to come meet with me at my home here in (blacked out) to discuss the matter. (Again, I had no idea how he knew where I live.)
I told him that I wasn’t interested in whatever he was looking for and I hung up the phone and didn’t think about it anymore. Two days later, Bill called again. He told me, ‘I’m just going to cut straight to the Chase (blacked out).’ He then offered to pay off all of my credit card debt, plus bring me a check for $20,000 if I would do one thing. In more of an effort to get him to go away than anything else, I asked him what in the hell he wanted me to do. He said that we could not talk about it on the phone, and he asked me to download an app on my phone called Signal, which he said was more secure. Reluctantly, I downloaded the app and he called me on that app a few minutes later. He said (and I will never forget exactly what it was) ‘I want you to make accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment against Robert Mueller, and I want you to sign a sworn affidavit to that effect.’ He said that he would arrange an additional $10,000 bonus from his client, who he said wqs (sic) a man named Jack Burkman, if I could sign the documents immediately.
I don’t know who these people are or why they want this stuff. I immediately hung up the phone and deleted that app. I didn’t see Robert Mueller very much when I worked at Pillsbury, but when I did see him, he was always very polite to me, and was never inappropriate. I don’t know what these people are looking for, but I’m not going to be part of some kind of Washington DC drama for any price.
The email contains several typos.
Scott Stedman, who also received the email from the woman, posted a lengthy thread about the situation on Twitter. He wrote, “I wasn’t going to report on this, but I think my fears are coming true. Based on information that I am privy to, I believe false accusations will be spread about Mueller in order to discredit him and possibly the journalists who are preparing this story.”
Stedman has posted screenshots he says are messages from the intermediary to him. He added, “2 weeks ago, I, along with other journalists were set an email from a woman who alleged that she was a former colleague of Mueller. She said that Jack Burkman, via an intermediary, offered her tens of thousands to make up sexual assault claims against Mueller. I found the woman to be unreliable, she wouldn’t get on the phone, she wouldn’t give me any other contact information. She did however give me the phone number of the intermediary who allegedly offered this money on behalf of Burkman.”
The Atlantic reported that a second woman, Jennifer Taub, who is a Vermont Law School professor, says she received an email from a man “using a Surefire Intelligence email address around the same time, on October 22,” that indicated, “It’s my understanding that you may have had some past encounters with Robert Mueller.” Taub told journalists she had not had contacts with Robert Mueller.
According to the Atlantic, the email also said, in part, “My organization is conducting an examination of Robert Mueller’s past. Tell me a decent method to contact you by telephone (or Signal, which would be ideal) and a beginning rate to talk with you about all encounters you’ve had with Special Counsel Mueller.”
Taub retweeted the story mentioning her. “Law prof and author of financial crisis book ‘Other People’s Houses’ and White Collar Crime casebook,” her Twitter profile reads.
Surefire Intelligence features into this story in several murky ways.
According to Daily Beast, Jacob Wohl, a conservative writer, claimed “Burkman had told him he had hired Matthew Cohen, who is a managing partner at the private investigations company Surefire Intelligence, to assist with the investigation.” You can read more about the background of Jacob Wohl here.
However, Daily Beast reported that some supposed employees of Surefire use fake headshots of a model, actor and others.
Professor Jennifer Taub says she was contacted by “Simon Frick” from Surefire who asked about past “encounters” she had with Robert Mueller (she denies having any) and raised the idea of payment. However, some reporters have noted that the photo Simon Frick uses online appears to be Christoph Waltz, the famous actor.
Wohl denied being tied to Surefire to Daily Beast, but the site reported, among other details you can see here, that “Surefire’s website domain data lists an email address bearing Wohl’s name and that of a legally suspect financial firm he led, NeX Management.” Wohl now acknowledges being behind Surefire Intelligence and the documents he and Burkman gave to reporters at a press conference about Mueller have Surefire’s name at the top.
Does Lorraine Parsons really exist or did the email writer just use that name? So far, Lorraine Parsons has not come forward through other means, such as telephone.
Politico reported that Lorraine D. Parsons of Fort Myers, Fla. was the name the woman gave. Datamining sites do indicate people with that name in Florida, but it’s not clear at all whether they are the same person. Politico reported that it could not independently confirm the email or that an actual Lorraine Parsons sent it. Heavy has also not been able to do so at this point. Daily Beast reported of Lorraine Parsons, “Parsons repeatedly declined to talk to The Daily Beast on the phone, and internet searches have failed to provide any background on her.”
Politico further reported that Parsons wrote an email declining to speak with Politico reporters by telephone. She forwarded “a screen shot from a text message she said came from a person with a Northern Virginia area code that said, ‘Lorraine, we need to get this done. Last chance,'” the site reported.
Jane Mayer, of the New Yorker, wrote on Twitter: “This started w/ a person claiming to be ‘Lorraine’ emailing that ‘she’ worked with Mueller at a law firm in 1974. The law firm she named, Pillsbury, says no Lorraine worked in its S.F. office with Mueller in the 1970’s. That’s a fact. The rest seems fishier than a tuna sandwich.”
Stedman, also a journalist, retweeted the above Mayer post and wrote, “The ‘woman’ who started this entire thing doesn’t appear to exist. The law firm says she never worked there. The phone number of the intermediary who allegedly offered the cash has been disconnected.” He added, “I want to make this entirely clear: There is ZERO evidence that a woman actually exists in this story. The only people known to be involved are Wohl and Burkman.”
Mayer also wrote, referring to the sexual assault accusations being peddled against Robert Mueller, “Just re-upping. It’s baloney. They can serve whatever they want, but we don’t have to bite.” She added, “It’s just a stupid hoax.”
Jacob Wohl, who is also a writer for the conservative site, Gateway Pundit, tweeted on October 29, 2018, “Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow. Should be interesting. Stay tuned!” Gateway Pundit wrote, “We took the documents down and we are currently investigating these accusations. There are also very serious allegations against Jacob Wohl. We are also looking into this.”
Wohl wrote on Twitter on October 30, “I’ve counted more than 25 news outlets who have reported allegations against me, claiming that I offered to pay women to make accusations against Mueller I’ve looked into this ‘Lorraine Parsons’! Looks like she doesn’t even exist! IT’S A FAKE NEWS CON JOB!”