Ironically, the document revealing the investigation was filed just days after Wohl and Burkman staged a fake FBI raid on Burkman’s home in a bid for media attention.
The FBI investigation centers on Wohl and Burkman’s February release of confidential juror questionnaires from the trial of Trump associate Roger Stone. The FBI is investigating the pair for potential witness harassment, criminal contempt, and obstruction of justice, according to the filing.
The case could mark more legal trouble for the pair, who have become notorious in the political world for their quickly foiled schemes to smear Trump opponents with bogus sexual assault allegations.
In an email to The Daily Beast, Burkman said he wasn’t aware of any FBI investigation. Wohl told The Daily Beast via a text message that he also didn’t know about the case.
“I have heard they’re investigating us for the Kennedy assassination,” Wohl wrote sarcastically.
Stone’s legal team didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The Sept. 18 document, filed by prosecutors from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, asks for a court order mandating voice-over-IP company HD Carrier LLC not reveal the existence of a grand jury subpoena related to the FBI investigation.
The filing was first noticed by Offshore Alert, a website covering offshore banking, after an editor there was able to quickly grab it from the website of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia before it was sealed. The document is no longer publicly available in the federal PACER court system, and a search for its case number brings up a sealed docket.
“I'm in and out of PACER all day and just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Offshore Alert editor David Marchant told The Daily Beast in an email. “I believe the document was available only for a matter of minutes.”
In late February, Wohl and Burkman held an impromptu press conference outside the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland to allege that the Stone jury, which had convicted him on seven counts three months earlier, was biased against him. As their supposed proof, Wohl and Burkman published confidential juror questionnaires, which mostly focused on the jurors’ media diet.
“On February 27, 2020, Burkman and his associate, Jacob Wohl, held a press conference during which they disseminated copies of the juror questionnaires,” the filing reads. “During that press conference, Burkman and Wohl did not provide the manner by which they obtained the court documents other than to say neither Roger Stone nor Stone’s legal team provided them.”
The court filing also notes that Burkman published some of the confidential questionnaires on Twitter.
“On or about February 20, 2020, John M. Burkman, Jr. (a/k/a Jack Burkman) released via his Twitter account (@Jack_Burkman) a sample of juror questionnaires filled out by jurors in the matter of U.S. v. Roger Stone,” the filing reads. “Continuing from on or about February 20, 2020, a series of tweets were sent from the @Jack_Burkman Twitter account which contained additional confidential juror questionnaires and derogatory characterizations about the jurors themselves. Burkman also claimed to have a transcript of the grand jury testimony of Steve Bannon.”
Those actions could potentially qualify as crimes, according to prosecutors.
“Based on the facts above, the FBI assesses Burkman and Wohl may have been engaged in an attempt to influence or injure the jurors, as well as tampering with potential witnesses before the court,” the filing reads. “As part of its continued investigation, [the] FBI is seeking to determine with whom Wohl was in contact at the time of jury selection in order to help determine the possible vector by which Wohl and/or Burkman obtained the juror questionnaires.”
The HD Carrier subpoena relates to a series of phone numbers that Burkman contacted prior to the publication of the questionnaires, according to the filing. HD Carrier provides phone numbers for teleconferencing companies and other businesses that use temporary phone numbers, suggesting that the phone numbers were used only briefly by whoever Burkman was in contact with. The court filing notes that Burkman contacted the phone numbers around the time of the questionnaire release, according to a law enforcement review of his call records.
The prosecutors’ filing asks for a court order mandating that the subpoena remain a secret in part because the investigation is expected to take at least a year.
“Given the complex nature of the criminal activity under investigation and likely involvement of coconspirators and evidence, and also given that the criminal scheme may be ongoing, the Government anticipates that this confidential investigation will continue for the next year or longer,” the filing reads.
The filing also notes that an early disclosure of the investigation could prompt the targets of the investigation to engage in “flight from prosecution, destruction of or tampering with evidence, intimidation of potential witnesses, or other serious jeopardy to this investigation.”
“Disclosure may reveal the existence, scope, and direction of the Government’s ongoing and confidential investigation,” the filing reads. “Once alerted to this investigation, potential target(s) could be immediately prompted to destroy or conceal incriminating evidence, alter their operational tactics to avoid future detection, and otherwise take steps to undermine the investigation and avoid future prosecution. In particular, given that they are known to use electronic communication and remote computing services, the potential target(s) could quickly and easily destroy or encrypt digital evidence relating to their criminal activity.”
While the grand jury investigating the case is empaneled in Washington, D.C., according to the filing, the request for the court order is signed by William M. McSwain, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as well as two assistant U.S. attorneys in that office.
It’s not clear why prosecutors in Pennsylvania are handling a case in Washington, and McSwain’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
But McSwain’s filing notes that he’s operating under U.S. Code § 515, a legal provision for “special attorneys” that allows prosecutors appointed by the U.S. Attorney General or another Justice Department official to operate outside of their usual jurisdictions. Both of the assistant U.S. attorneys in the Wohl-Burkman filing signed the document as “Special Attorney to the U.S. Attorney General.”
In 2019, McSwain made headlines for accusing Democratic billionaire George Soros of wanting to “implement his radical agenda.”
While the FBI investigation and grand jury subpoena could portend new legal trouble, they’re not the only problems for the pair. Wohl has been charged with two felony counts in California over alleged violations of securities law, while Michigan’s attorney general is investigating a racist voter-suppression robocall that claimed to be from Wohl and Burkman. The duo have denied being behind the robocall.