Michigan attorney general charges right-wing political operatives with intimidating voters through robocalls
Posted October 1, 2020 7:46 p.m. EDT
CNN — Two notorious right-wing political operatives were charged Thursday for allegedly running a voter suppression operation targeting voters in Michigan, according to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The operatives, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, are accused of orchestrating a series of robocalls aimed at deterring Detroit residents from voting by mail. They are each charged with one count of intimidating voters, one count of conspiracy to commit an election law violation, one count of using a computer to commit the crime of intimidating voters and using a computer to commit the crime of conspiracy. The first two charges each carry a maximum of five years in prison and the latter two charges carry a maximum of seven years in prison.
"Any effort to interfere with, intimidate or intentionally mislead Michigan voters will be met with swift and severe consequences," Nessel, a Democrat, said in a news release. "This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election."
An arraignment date hasn't been set and the Michigan attorney general's office said it would work with local law enforcement, if necessary, to secure Wohl and Burkman's appearance. The release states Wohl lives in California and Burkman lives in Virginia.
Wohl declined to comment when reached by CNN, and Burkman could not be reached Thursday evening.
The charges come two months after elected officials in Michigan and Illinois say a racially charged robocall had targeted voters with misinformation about mail-in balloting. The call falsely claimed that mail-in voters will have their personal information shared with law enforcement "to track down old warrants" and that they could be added to a list for "mandatory vaccines."
The voice on the robocall said it was sponsored by a group founded by Burkman and Wohl, who have spent years perpetrating hoaxes and false smears against Democratic politicians and opponents of President Donald Trump.
In a brief interview with CNN in August, Wohl denied that he or Burkman was responsible for the misleading and racist calls, and said they had learned about them only after Burkman started receiving angry messages from people who saw his number on their caller ID.
"We've never done any robocalls," Wohl said. "We are categorically uninvolved."
One of their most notorious stunts was in 2018, when Wohl and Burkman attempted to slime then-special counsel Robert Mueller with a sexual assault allegation. That story collapsed after journalists and internet sleuths tied the scheme to the duo.