#131 Surefire Investigations
November 15, 2018
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This week, the return of YYN: from a deranged mascot to the top of the FBI
GOLDMAN: Welcome once again to Yes, Yes, No, the segment on the show where our boss who when we started the show seemed very old to me but now seems very much within the reasonable age difference to me.
PJ: This like season of Reply All like the theme is just aging anxiety. It's really uncomfortable.
BLUMBERG: I know. You guys are getting so old.
GOLDMAN: Um, so our boss Alex Blumberg comes to us with stuff from the internet that he doesn’t understand and we do our best to explain it to him. Uh, hi, Alex.
BLUMBERG: Hello, Alex Goldman
GOLDMAN: Hi, how are you?
BLUMBERG: I'm good.
PJ: You guys sound like you're ready to pledge drive?
BLUMBERG: Hey, PJ,
PJ: (laughs) What have you got?
BLUMBERG: All right. So I have a Tweet. It's from somebody named Maya Kossoff, and Maya’s Tweet says I just left a hipster coffee shop in Philadelphia, all the young libs there were sipping disposable cups full of SEPTA sewer sludge and murmuring among themselves how Gritty is actually the Phanatic’s son. (laughs) And there's 1,163 likes and a bunch of retweets. And uh and I really don't know--
GOLDMAN: Do none of the words in this make any sense--
BLUMBERG: I mean the words make...it's like it's one of those classic Yes, Yes, No Tweets where the words-- I know every word except for SEPTA. I guess I know even know what SEPTA is it's a train line, right?
BLUMBERG: I know what SEPTA is. I know what all the words are, but I just don't--the way they're arranged makes no sense to me.
GOLDMAN: PJ Vogt, do you understand this Tweet?
PJ: (sigh) Mostly.
GOLDMAN: All right, Alex Blumberg do you understand this Tweet?
BLUMBERG: No. Alex Goldman, do you understand this tweet.
GOLDMAN: I'm gonna go-- I would say I'm about 90 percent, 95 percent.
PJ: Okay, we're at famous segment 95 percent mostly no. (all laugh) Can I just say something unusual, that I'm excited about about this?
PJ: The part that I feel most qualified to explain, is all sports stuff.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. This is a, this is like a back door Sports, Sports, Sports, man. I hope you're ready.
BLUMBERG: Oh my God, really?
PJ: Also, it's actually like we've not had like four episodes or something just about Philadelphia sports.
BLUMBERG: I know it's all Philly sports.
PJ: This is more Philly sports.
BLUMBERG: (laughs) Oh that's, oh so the Phanatic in this Tweet then Phanatics-- the Phanatic is spelled Phanatic and that must refer to the Philly Phanatic, which is the Philadelphia Phillies mascot.
GOLDMAN: That’s correct.
PJ: A big green Muppet looking guy who's really zany and lots of fun.
BLUMBERG: All right.
PJ: if you're a young PJ Vogt who is being taken to all these Phillies games by his dad -- uh the love of sports didn’t really stick but the Phanatic was just pretty awesome...He’s just a very weird goofy mascot, even if the game was a little slow, he's out there.
BLUMBERG: He's one of the best mascots.
BLUMBERG: It was him and the San Diego chicken were the best ones.
PJ: So do you okay, so wait, so, you know the Phanatic, do you know Gritty?
BLUMBERG: I don't know Gritty.
GOLDMAN: So at the end of September, um the Philadelphia Flyers, the hockey team, unveiled a new mascot.
GOLDMAN: His name is Gritty.
PJ: He's fantastic.
GOLDMAN: I'm going to just show you his entrance to the first to the first Flyers game of the season.
GOLDMAN: Okay. Here we go.
BLUMBERG: Oh my god. Wow.
GOLDMAN: So there is a massive, fuzzy orange monster in a hockey jersey that is Gritty. He is descending from the ceiling, on a wire, um waving and tumbling and spinning all around. And he hits the ice…not gracefully I might add. Um, just kind of wobbly. And then he disconnects himself and just starts wiggling around.
BLUMBERG: Like his eyes are like--
PJ: They never stop wobbling--
BLUMBERG: Because most yeah, I realize most mascots don't have like the googly eyes-
PJ: Because it would be disturbing--
BLUMBERG: That you can buy at a craft store, you know, and you put on like a sock puppet (Goldman laughs) and like but he has like gigantic version of those googly eyes that you put on sock puppets, and it's really disconcerting because his eyes are just like constantly rotating in different directions.
BLUMBERG: It makes them look incred-- scarily deranged.
BLUMBERG He looks like crazy. He looks like he could hurt you.
BLUMBERG: And might want to hurt you.
PJ: He also looks kind of like a mascot that somebody made in prison out of parts of other mascots.
BLUMBERG: Yes. He's got-- but-- but like but somebody like a prison artisan with a great talent.
PJ: Yes. Yes Yes Yes
BLUMBERG: Because it's like really it's a really fully it's a fully cohesive, sort of mascot. It's really great anyway...
GOLDMAN: So Gritty-- I mean, PJ, you can speak to the spirit of Philadelphia more than I can.
PJ: Yeah just like Philadelphia, Philadelphia sports-- Philadelphia and Philadelphia sports fans are just like sort of like teetering on the edge of violence at all times. It's like kind of scary but also like very lovable and great like when I was a kid and my dad would take me like Eagles games or baseball games the thing I remember is just being scared the whole time. Like it would just be like guys spilling beer all the time like fistfights constantly and it just it didn't feel like there was a class of person including like 11-year-old boy who was definitely safe from getting just like knocked out for no reason.
BLUMBERG: Yeah yeah yeah.
PJ: And like the reason Gritty is great is because he, it like--they somehow manage to communicate all that in mascot.
BLUMBERG: Yes. He like his the mascot epitome-- like sort of incarnation of all that angry Philly sports energy. Honestly, the first thing I thought was like, okay, the summer between my freshman and sophomore year at college, I got a job working working construction where we are would frame houses. And it was me and these three dudes who were like sort of like framed houses for a living. And every day we would show up at the job site, and they would like 6:00 in the morning they would like smoke a gigantic joint, and then they proceeded to smoke joints all day long. And then they’d be up on top of like houses just like walking along, like they would just like get completely wasted all day but it somehow didn’t affect them. And the first day I showed up and I was just like out of college at Oberlin. Like I show up and they hand me the joint and I didn’t know what to do so I took a hit and then I was too stoned to do anything for the whole day. And so then I couldn’t smoke any more pot that whole summer
There were four of us that worked on this construction crew. It was me and this guy Pat and this guy Arnie and then this guy Ricky and Ricky had this big, big huge red hair and this crazy huge red beard. And like he was sort of a wild man and they would always tease him and they would always talk about how he never brushed his teeth. He was just like--
PJ: That is Gritty.
BLUMBERG: Exactly. I took one look at Gritty and the very first thing that popped into my mind was this image from like over 30 years ago of Ricky on that construction crew in Cincinnati, Ohio.
GOLDMAN: So. When Gritty first came out, people are just like what the hell is this? The thing is hideous. It's ridiculous.
PJ: Look what Philadelphia has done again.
GOLDMAN: Right. So the first Flyer’s game of the season rolls around, and Gritty steps onto the ice and from like moment one it is just a debacle. Like, they give him a T-shirt cannon and he like nails a guy in the BACK of a head with a T-shirt. Um, they don’t give Gritty skates, and he’s like immediately falling all over the place. He’s falling down-- um, there’s actually a picture of him just like laying down on the ice after having fallen and like there’s actually a person in the foreground with their hands on their head like- just looking upset
BLUMBERG: Oh and like people yeah people like have their hands on their head and sometimes like what the hell- there’s a thing with his arms spread out wide like what the fuck, Gritty?
GOLDMAN: It looks like a catastrophe is just happened. Like Gritty has fallen and gotten a concussion, and Gritty’s just laying with his legs splayed out staring off into space.
BLUMBERG: Like he might've knocked himself out.
GODMAN: Like he might have knocked himself out.
PJ: Or he just fell down decided it wasn't worth it.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, or he just fell down and decided that was it (Blumberg laughs). And so people saw this picture and like people were responding to it being like, “I love this. I love this so much.”
BLUMBERG: Oh like it touched something in them. Like they're all the sudden he seemed like instead of like it just somehow this unlocked his humanity?
GOLDMAN: Even the guy who Tweeted the original viral photo of Gritty laying on the ice was like totally onboard with Gritty. He tweeted something like, ‘I’m in tears, that was amazing. I am in, I am so in.”
BLUMBERG: So basically that we can't prove it but that might have been the moment that public sentiment turned in favor of Gritty.
BLUMBERG: Wow. Okay.
GOLDMAN: But people were responding to that just saying like Gritty is the relatable hero that we all need. Suddenly people were all in on this guy. Gritty is an everyman. Gritty is, is this person who is totally representative...not just of the Philly Spirit but of like of like everyone. It was just this goofy joke, everyone was enjoying it and then this website-- this sort of socialist anti-capitalist website called Jacobin takes the joke one step further by tweeting "Gritty is a worker."
BLUMBERG: Oh. So all of the sudden Gritty becomes political.
GOLDMAN: That’s right. So people loved this idea and just like ran with it. And so now the joke has evolved to being that Gritty is like a hero for the left, a defender of the Proletariat, and within like a week, Donald Trump comes to Philly and protesters mount up just like with full Gritty representation of their anti-Trumpness
PJ: What do you mean full Gritty representation of an anti-Trumpness?
GOLDMAN: Signs that say like say like, “There's only room for one orange asshole in this town.”
GOLDMAN: There is video of people marching down the street. And I'll just play it for you.
VIDEO: Gritty hates Trump! Gritty hates Trump! Gritty hates Trump! Gritty hates Trump!
GOLDMAN: People are like…
BLUMBERG: The left is really claimed Gritty.
GOLDMAN: There's a petition to replace a mural of the former mayor, Frank Rizzo, with a mural of Gritty.
GOLDMAN: And then it gets to this point where like four or five days after the Trump rally, the Wall Street Journal of all places publishes this piece called “Antifa Appropriates a Creepy Mascot: Keep your Marxist hands off of Gritty. He belongs to Philly.” And it says stuff like, um “The same leftists who want statues of Thomas Jefferson removed are now petitioning for Gritty to replace Mayor Frank Rizzo on a downtown mural.” Like, they’re taking this deadly seriously.
BLUMBERG: Wow, okay.
GOLDMAN: And then, a month after Gritty’s introduced, like in the end of October, the Philadelphia city council puts together a resolution welcoming Gritty to the city.
GOLDMAN: And there's a lot to it. It's very long. But it's one of the, it's says like, “A resolution welcoming Gritty whereas blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.” It's written in like the style of a, of a standard political resolution, but the details in it are so wonderful. It says like, “Whereas Gritty has been described as an acid trip of a mascot, a Shaggy orange wookie-esque grotesquerie, a non-binary leftist icon, an Orange Menace, a raging id and an antihero. It has been argued that he quote conveys the absurdity and struggle of modern life under capitalism and that he represents a source of Joyful comic respite.”
PJ: This is Philadelphia city council?
PJ: That's funny.
GOLDMAN: “And he represents a source of Joyful comic respite in a time of societal upheaval.” This is just, I'm cherry picking from a very long document … and then it says, “Resolved that the city council that the Council of the city of Philadelphia welcomes Gritty, the new mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers and honors the spirit and passion that Gritty has brought to the city of Philadelphia and to the entire country both on and off the ice.”
PJ: It's just amazing that they're being like, “We welcome this big monstrosity like of course, he's a, he's the mascot.”
PJ: But they're like, “We welcome him, and the internet is right, like, he voted for Bernie.”
BLUMBERG: That's amazing.
GOLDMAN: So I feel like…
PJ: Wait that's literally one phrase of this like…
GOLDMAN: You know who Gritty is now. Congratulations.
BLUMBERG: I know who Gritty is. Oh wait, so there's more right.
GOLDMAN: So the last thing that is very important to this and is itself an odyssey is the phrase, “I just left a history hipster coffee shop.”
BLUMBERG: I didn't know that there was a backstory to that. I didn't even know enough to not know that I didn't know … I thought that was the one-- I thought that was the one sentence in here that I are the one phrase in here that I …
PJ: Surely this book is not a trapdoor to another secret passageway.
BLUMBERG: So what don't I understand about hipster coffee shop in Philadelphia?
GOLDMAN: Well, To explain the hipster coffee shop thing. I have to explain an entirely different but related phenomenon. (Blumberg: Okay) which is the Trump responder. Are you familiar with Trump responders, Alex?
GOLDMAN: A Trump responder is a person who essentially responds to every Trump Tweet in order to raise their own profile.
PJ: Not just responds to every Trump Tweet, they try to be first. They try to make it so that when you open up Donald Trump's latest like provocation, right below it you see the same one to six people every time.
GOLDMAN: People on the left, he'll say something incendiary and they'll be like, “You, sir are not going to be laughing so hard when Mueller puts you in jail.” And then the people on the right are like, “You should lock all immigrants up! You're doing a great job.” (Blumberg laughs)
PJ & ALEX: But it's always--
PJ: --the same people.
GOLDMAN: It’s always the same people.
PJ: And either there’s a person on the left being like, “Have you no decency? And also everyone else who’s offended, buy my T-shirt or my stupid book.”
PJ: Or a person on the right who's like, “Have you all know decency? Buy my stupid t-shirt or my stupid book.”
BLUMBERG: Got it.
PJ: And it's always like the most like-- like just
GOLDMAN: They’re problematic people.
PJ: Well, not just the people are problematic, like the merch is problematic. It’s always on like Zazzle. And it’s always like-
BLUMBERG: Wait what’s Zazzle?
PJ: Zazzle’s like, uh-- a website where you can print whatever you want on a t-shirt and sell it. And so it’s like lots of people making junky t-shirts, lots of copyright infringement, and like, I don’t know, stuff you buy at a boardwalk? Like “Don’t date my daughter I have a shotgun.”
PJ: Or like, “It's a Blumberg thing. You wouldn't understand.”
BLUMBERG: (laughs) Okay, so wait, who are the Trump responders?
GOLDMAN: So there's a couple of big ones. There are these two guys the Krassenstein brothers--
PJ: (whispers) Oh they’re the worst.
GOLDMAN: Who--Ed and Bryan Krassenstein who….
PJ: They’re just like these bloggers-- they each have like half a million twitter followers they run this site called Hill Reporter which sounds like a newspaper but it’s just like their website. Like, the best way to explain them is like Twitter will not verify them because they’re not legitimate and so one of the brothers got an emoji of a blue diamond and put it next to his name so that people would think that he was verified on Twitter.
GOLDMAN: They Kickstarted a children's book called—oh God, I want to get the exact name ’cause it's wonderful, ’cause it's, just saying the phrase bums me out so bad. (typing)
GOLDMAN: How the People Trumped Ronald Plump, and it is a children's book about people fighting back against Donald Trump and his evil hair piece, which is also a squirrel named Weave Bannon.
BLUMBERG: Oh my God.
GOLDMAN: But before they were part of the #Resistance, the Krassensteins have like kind of a checkered past. Like people looked into them and it turns out a couple of years ago they were raided by the FBI for allegedly running a bunch of Ponzi scheme websites. Um but the reason I explain the idea of Trump Responders to you is because this hipster coffee shop thing has to do with a gentleman by the name of Jacob Wohl.
BLUMBERG: Jacob Wohl.
GOLDMAN: Jacob Wohl is--
BLUMBERG: I’ve heard that name.
BLUMBERG: --is a Trump responder.
PJ: He's a, he’s a Trump, a Trump-supporting Trump responder. All I know about Jacob Wohl is he's always saying the most incendiary stuff, and he's like 19--
GOLDMAN: He’s 20.
PJ: He's 20. He represents himself as a very wealthy man. And I think he's one of the youngest people permanently barred from futures trading or something? (Goldman laugh).
BLUMBERG: Badge of honor
BLUMBERG: So wait, so Jacob Wohl, so the Krassensteins are liberal Trump responders.
GOLDMAN: And Wohl is a conservative Trump responder. And so like here's an archetypal Jacob Wohl Tweet. He's responding to Donald Trump saying, “Many gang members and some very bad people are mixed into the caravan heading to our southern border. Please go back. You will not be admitted into the United States unless you go through the legal process. This is an invasion of our country, and our military is waiting for you.”
Jacob Wohl responds, “Gang members and low-skilled illiterate workers, that's the Democratic party's base.”
GOLDMAN: So Jacob Wohl prior to becoming the online Jacob Wohl that we all know and love?
GOLDMAN: He um he owned this hedge fund and in 2016 he was investigated after investors complained that he misrepresented himself by saying he had 10 years of experience, despite only being 18 years old.
GOLDMAN: He was investigated again after telling his investors that his company managed $10 million worth of assets when in reality they were managing like half a million dollars and when people got suspicious and wanted their money back, he gave them about half of their money back.
PJ: Not great
GOLDMAN: And the other thing he would allegedly do is hire models to accompany him to conferences because he thought it would help him woo investors.
BLUMBERG: Uh huh
GOLDMAN: So Jacob Wohl would have remained a Trump replier, probably could have parlayed this into like spots on Fox News, whatever.
PJ: Zazzle Empire.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, Zazzle Empire.
GOLDMAN: Um, but, my man, he flew very close to the sun.
PJ: So this is what I think I don't know. What happens?
GOLDMAN: You don't know what happens? Really?
PJ: I don't know anything that takes me from Jacob Wohl to hipster coffee shop in Philadelphia.
GOLDMAN: Well, there's there's a long bridge between those two things, so--
PJ: Okay, we’re on a Yes, Yes, No.
BLUMBERG: We’re on it.
GOLDMAN: Coming up after the break, things get much worse for Jacob Wohl.
GOLDMAN: Welcome back to the show. So in mid-october, two things started happening. One, Jacob Wohl was tweeting all this stuff about how he’s got huge news about Robert Mueller and reliable sources are telling him that something really bad’s gonna happen.” Like, here’s one of his tweets. He says “Spoke to a prominent D.C. insider today, told me there are several women prepared to make credible allegations against dirty cop Robert Mueller.” So--
PJ: So he was implying that he had--
GOLDMAN: He was implying this--
PJ: --that he had--
GOLDMAN: --and at the same time--
PJ: --that he had kompromat on Robert Mueller.
GOLDMAN: And at the same time, reporters were Tweeting like, “Hi. I just got an email from someone that said that they got an email from someone else offering them money in return for claiming that they were sexually assaulted by Robert Mueller.”
PJ: I did see some of this.
GOLDMAN: So, um--
BLUMBERG: Wait, so he posts a thing saying, “I have, stay tuned--”
PJ: “I’ve got a bombshell.”
BLUMBERG: “--hot news coming—bombshell—
BLUMBERG: And then--
PJ: And then there’s a woman emailing all these reporters saying, “Hey some guy just offered me thousands of dollars to make accusations against Robert Mueller.”
GOLDMAN: There was a different woman, a law school professor named Jennifer Taub. And she says she got this very concerning email offering her money if she’d talk to this guy about her experiences with Mueller. Who, according to Taub, she’s never even met. So her correspondence gets forwarded to the FBI, and at the same time Jacob Wohl is just barrelling forward and on October 30th, Jacob Wohl tweets, “Several media sources tell me that a scandalous story about Mueller is breaking tomorrow. Should be interesting. Stay tuned.” And then an article comes out alleging that Mueller sexually assaulted someone written by none other than Jacob Wohl.
BLUMBERG: An article where?
GOLDMAN: In a very fringy outlet called Gateway pundit, which is like basically a cousin of Infowars. And the article outlines an accusation from a woman who says that she was sexually assaulted by Robert Mueller in New York on or about Aug. 2nd, 2010 and Jacob Wohl backs this up with images of leaked documents from a private intelligence firm called Surefire Intelligence.
So people immediately start digging into these allegations. And the first thing that people find is there’s an article in the Washington Post from 2010 that says that Robert Mueller was actually in Washington DC on August 2, not New York, because he was serving jury duty.”
PJ: What a shoddy whatever. It's not just like it's not just that this is like awful in a bunch of oh different ways, it’s also, like it's the worldview of a person who like, for instance like when there are multiple credible accusations against somebody thinks that this is what the other side is doing. Do you know what I mean?
BLUMBERG: Yeah I know, I know, I know.
PJ: It’s such a, ugh, anyway, tell me more about how didn't work.
GOLDMAN: So the next thing people do is they like, “Okay, so we've never heard of this Surefire Intelligence. What is Surefire Intelligence?”
PJ: Name sounds credible.
GOLDMAN: So people start doing what what you or I would do if we were investigating this. They're just like I'm gonna like look for all evidence of this place existing online. They go to the website--
PJ: This place.
GOLDMAN: Surefire Intelligence. So they go to the website, they start looking on LinkedIn and the first, the first indication that something's off is they go to the LinkedIn, they find a couple of employees who work there. Let me show you one. His name is Simon Frick.
PJ: So the picture of Simon Frick looks a lot like a 1940s film star.
GOLDMAN: Does it look like 1940 film star? Does it look like Christoph Waltz?
PJ: Oh, it's Christoph Waltz, it’s just in black and white, the guy from Inglourious Basterds. (Blumberg laughs)
PJ: Just pick a random image of someone who's not an actor.
GOLDMAN: They did. They picked a minister from Michigan. They also got Bar Refaeli the Israeli model--
PJ: No get people who can't reverse Google Image search
GOLDMAN: More to the point, why use a picture at all? Who puts a picture on their LinkedIn?
PJ: Most people.
GOLDMAN: I have one. That's a good point.
PJ: Your sense of what is normal in the world is so funny.
GOLDMAN: And so people are asking Jacob Wohl like, “Hey. Are you behind this? Like you have been claiming for weeks that this is going to happen, you posted the article. Are you Surefire Intelligence?” And he was like, “No not at all. Of course not.” And then people look up the Whois record and the website is registered to Jacob Wohl. People call the web--
PJ: There could be, that could be a different Jacob Wohl.
GOLDMAN: People call the phone number on the website, and it's his mom's cell phone.
PJ: That could be his father then who set it up.
BLUMBERG: He's so bad at this.
GOLDMAN: And James--
BLUMBERG: This makes me almost feel like maybe he's like a liberal operator (?)
PJ: You think it's a false flag operation? They got you man.
BLUMBERG: That's amazing
GOLDMAN: And Jane Mayer.
BLUMBERG: His mom’s cellphone?
GOLDMAN: Jane Mayer from The New Yorker posts a picture from the LinkedIn of the managing partner at Surefire Intelligence Matthew Cohen, and it's a darkened picture of like a silhouette of someone with a contrast turned way down and she cranked the contrast way up and look who it is.
PJ: I can't see. Is it Jacob Wohl?
GOLDMAN: It’s Jacob Wohl.
PJ: What is he even doing?
BLUMBERG: (laughs) So literally she just went into like Photoshop or whatever was just--
GOLDMAN: Yeah, just turn the contrast.
PJ: It's like when kids put their hands over their eyes and think you can't find them. Like it's so nuts.
PJ: All right, so, so some people look at this evidence and think maybe Jacob Wohl’s involved. How does he respond when people start saying like hey buddy?
GOLDMAN: He's like he's like I haven't even come forward with all my evidence. And this is there's a mainstream media smear to try and ruin me. What happens is pretty much immediately. I think it was the same day, Gateway Pundit pulls the article down.
GOLDMAN: And then within a day suspended Jacob Wohl from Gateway Pundit
PJ: It's like getting kicked out of being kicked out like it's a really that's really. It's like it's like it's like being too nuts for Infowars. Like it's really something
GOLDMAN: But, but guys, it's not over.
BLUMBERG: Okay, so he gets kicked out of Gateway--
PJ: Somehow we need to get to a coffee shop. Just know that.
GOLDMAN: He gets kicked out of kicked off of Gateway Pundit and then on November 1st he and this guy Jack Burkman who’s another right-wing conspiracy guy- They hold a press conference in a Holiday Inn in the D.C. area.
GOLDMAN: And the whole reason they’re doing this is because they’re like, Okay. We’re just going to clear the air. We’re going to set the record straight on what’s going on. Hold on, let me just find it.
Video: “There has developed in the last week as I’m sure all of you have noticed a tragic and sad backstory that somehow I or Jacob or others paid or attempted to pay some woman for coming forward. None of this is true.--”
GOLDMAN: So this press conference is about as professional and slick as you'd imagine it to be. It's like in a tiny weird beige room sparsely attended mostly by people who are there to straight-up laugh at these guys. Um and it is like a circus from the very beginning. Jack Burkman somehow manages to have his zipper undone for the entire press conference.
PJ: They really leave no detail undetailed.
BLUMBERG: Seriously is this like false flag.
PJ: False flag.
BLUMBERG: It’s looking more and more--
PJ: You think is all like funded by like Avenatti or whatever.
GOLDMAN: Um and they reveal the name of the accuser which they'd been withholding. They say her name is Carolyne Cass, and that she’s a fashion designer. Carolyne Cass actually was supposed to show up at the conference. But according to Jacob Wohl--
PJ: She was too busy being a real person.
GOLDMAN: --arrived in D.C., immediately got scared, got on another plane and left.
PJ: Did anyone confirm that she existed?
GOLDMAN: There is a woman by the name of Carolyne Cass. As to date I'm not sure if it has been confirmed that this woman who is a fashion designer as they described her is in any way associated with them. They just know that there's a woman's fashion designer with the name Carolyne Cass who exists.
GOLDMAN: So reporters start asking questions and someone immediately asks like, Jacob, you’re 20 years old, what kind of investigative experience do you have? What qualifications do you have to be running an intelligence agenc--an intelligence operation? And Burkman responds.
Video: “No one should engage in age discrimination where you say that just because a person is 20 means they’re-- Jacob is a lot smarter than I am and I’m 52, went to law school at Georgetown. Let me tell you that I think Jacob is a child prodigy who has eclipsed mozart.
GOLDMAN: It was like such weird stuff. Like one of the things that people have been doing to Jacob Wohl since this happened is they've been quoting the dril Tweet at him the dril I'm not owned Tweet.
GOLDMAN: So there's a very famous Tweet by Twitter weird Twitter comedian Dril, which is- it says, “‘I'm not owned. I'm not owned,’ I continue to insist as I slowly shrink and transform into a corn cob.”
PJ: Sometimes people will say that sometimes getting corn cobbed which is just like they're losing and refusing to admit that they're losing and they just like kind of keep making it worse for themselves.
GOLDMAN: So when he was- when he quickly got exposed, Jacob Wohl continued to Tweet defiantly and people started sending him this Tweet started sending him, pictures of corn cobs, photoshopped his face onto a corncob
GOLDMAN: And for some reason he brings this up at the conference.
JACOB: “And a picture of me, wearing a corn, some kind of corn costume.”
GOLDMAN: another thing about jacob that he’s 20 but he says he has a law degree like an honorary harvard law degree. And someone asks him about that.
REPORTER: Where'd you get this honorary Harvard degree?
JACOB: it's a figure of speech.
PJ: That’s wonderful
GOLDMAN: And then the reporter follows up about his like his qualifications.
REPORTER: Ok so you’re 20 years old, what is your background in professional investigation?
JACOB: And like I said, I've done a handful of matters. I've done a handful of matters like this over the years. My, you know, my mission here is not to establish a narrative. It's not to follow an agenda. It's to bring forth. It's a it's hang on hang on. It's excuse me. It's to bring forth the facts and let the facts speak for themselves. And that's what we've done here.
GOLDMAN: So the the the press conference ends with someone saying-- someone in the back shouting to Jack Burkman. “Are you guys prepared to go to federal prison?”
GOLDMAN: To which Jack Burkman replies. “No. No, we're not”
PJ: And so what happens
GOLDMAN: so the thing is that like... It does seem like he could actually be in real trouble and like most people... There are a lot of times when people will say something incendiary online and try and back it up and when they realize they've been caught out and like a spectacular way, delete everything and hunker down in the hopes that they just get left alone.
PJ: Which you can kind of do online
GOLDMAN: And Jacob Wohl has Tweeted through it. He is absolutely defiant, right? And so that brings us to... Hipster coffee shops
BLUMBERG: I had forgotten about those. Right. Hipster coffee shop, which is the the first phrase in the Tweet that that brought us here together today.
PJ: Many years ago.
BLUMBERG: I just left a hipster coffee shop in Philadelphia.
GOLDMAN: So I've got a Tweet here from the July 16th 2018. It is a Jacob Wohl Tweet and it says “I just left a hipster coffee shop. It was packed with liberals whispering amongst each other about what a commendable job President Trump did with Vladimir Putin this morning in Helsinki. America is proud.
PJ: (laughs) If they're all whispering about it, why are they still whispering about it?
PJ: So he's imagining like, it's like something like $10 espresso place and they’re like, you know, (whispers) I really hate to admit to admit but President Trump is actually very good. Totally agree, totally agree.
GOLDMAN: Some enterprising genius on Twitter decided to plug the phrase “coffee shop” into Jacob Wohl’s Tweets.
GOLDMAN: “I was in hipster coffee shop (safe space) here in LA and the libs were whispering to each other about how Donald Trump is doing great for the economy.
PJ: (whispering) I hope nobody in Philadelphia finds out about this conversation we’re always having
GOLDMAN: “...got them a raise at work and will definitely be reelected and 2020!” “Even coffee shop hipster liberals are marveling at President Trump's success with North Korea.”
“I was sitting in hipster coffee shop in downtown LA this morning and couldn't help but overhear six college-age Women seated at a table who were clamoring with excitement and joy over the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.”
GOLDMAN: Less than a week later, this one’s pretty rough, just to prepare you. “I was in an inner-city coffee shop just now, and couldn't help but notice several groups of smart young black men who were remarking with amazement at the Trump/ Kanye meeting. Incredibly inspired to vote for Trump in 2020.”
BLUMBERG: Oh my God
GOLDMAN: “I was in a hipster coffee shop in downtown LA. There was a group of young Democrats murmuring to each other that they know the suspicious packages were an inside job to make Republicans look bad.”
GOLDMAN: “I just left a hipster coffee shop in the Fairfax district here in Los Angeles. I will tell you one thing: Jewish support for President Trump is higher than ever.”
BLUMBERG: He's on like a unity mission of coffee shops around the world.
PJ: You would think eventually people would just figure out “Oh Jacob Wohl’s here. We better murmur even more quietly.”
GOLDMAN: So after this came out, a lot of the responses to him were about how he was in- how they were in a hipster coffee shop and he was going to go to jail, etc., etc. “I was a hipster coffee shop. I heard all the liberals talking about how you're going to prison.” Jacob Wohl has Tweeted so hard through this like, he has leaned into his persona.
PJ: (laugh) What else is he going to do at this point? He can’t go on Oprah?
GOLDMAN: So. There's an interesting coda to the story. So. His press conference was on November… His press conference… When was his press conference? His press conference was on November 1st.
GOLDMAN: It did not go as well as I think he'd hoped it would. On November 6, a website called Above the Law, which is like a law blog, there's an article.
BLUMBERG: This is a real site?
GOLDMAN: This this is a real site. Above the Law wrote an article called “Surefire Intelligence offers an explanation. That won't do it any favors with the Feds.” And basically what happened is the author whose name is Joe Patrice
PJ: Joe Patrice of Surefire intelligence.
GOLDMAN: No Joe Patrice of of Above the Law.
GOLDMAN: Received an email from someone at Surefire intelligence.. Goes by-
PJ: Wacob Johl?
GOLDMAN: Goes by the name... It's an amazing name-- goes by the name Donald Treehorn.
PJ: Isn't that the fake name in The Big Lebowski?
GOLDMAN: That's Jackie Treehorn, but that's exactly what the author says: “in an email sent to me yesterday, Surefire Intelligence managing partner Donald Treehorn, who's almost certainly Jacob Wohl using an alias because he assumes no one's ever watched The Big Lebowski, explained that they intended their email to Professor Taub to leak:"
And what this means is he was admitting to writing one of the emails to one of these women who said they were offered money he denied the rest and he said what he wanted to do was catch the media with their pants down when they credulously reported something false that he was planting without fact-checking it at all.
Which is absolutely not what happened. This is an excerpt from from the email that that Joe Patrice got: “Our objective was to expose the media for the hacks they are. They ran with our made-up story with reckless abandon without doing any background or source checking. We sold the story up the chain of small blogs, to news blogs, then to media people. Essentially we played all of you and it was so easy. We look forward to many more operations that will expose so-called journalist for what they truly are: fakers.”
PJ: It's easy to make fun of them, but I was in this hipster coffee shop...
GOLDMAN: (laughs) It's just like the worst ass covering. It feels like the kind of thing where like
PJ: Who are you lying for this point?
BLUMBERG: And the because none of that is like... They didn't run with… Nobody ran with the story, right?
GOLDMAN: No no mainstream outlet ran with this story.
BLUMBERG: So is he going to go to jail for this?
GOLDMAN: I don’t know but Joe Patrice the above the law guy says that legally Jacob Wohl could go to jail, he says like basically he says like you can’t witness tamper you can’t obstruct justice you can’t make false statements and then defend yourself by saying it’s all a big joke.
PJ: All right. There was a Tweet once.
BLUMBERG: Yeah, there was a Tweet at the beginning of this journey, right? So I think I understand everything now.
GOLDMAN: Lay it on us.
BLUMBERG: Once again Maya Kosofff has this tweet, “I just left the Hipster coffee shop in Philadelphia all the young libs there were sipping disposable mugs full of SEPTA sewer sludge and murmuring among themselves about how Gritty is actually the Phanatic’s son.” I'll explain the last part of it and I'll get back to the first sentence.
BLUMBERG: Last part of it is: Gritty is the new Philadelphia Flyers mascot, and Gritty has been claimed by the left wing and by Philadelphia in general. And so they're talking about how Gritty is awesome and he is the Phanatics son, which is...and The Phanatic is another...um Gritty is a mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers. The Phanatic is the mascot for the Philadelphia Phillies the baseball team, the flyers are the hockey team...and so they’re talking about how Gritty is the son and and symbolic will lineage to the Philly Phanatic, another beloved Philadelphia sports mascot.
BLUMBERG: Okay, and they're drinking SEPTA sewer sludge. SEPTA is the municipal transit system of Philadelphia..
BLUMBERG: Wait why-- did we skip that part? Why are they drinking SEPTA sewer sludge?
PJ: I think all she’s doing- because she’s pretending to be like a conservative, she’s just pretending that hipsters in Philly drink like subway juice basically.
BLUMBERG: Got it. Okay, so alright I just left a hipster coffee shop. It turns out is a reference to a deep long backstory starring a first a Trump first responder named Jacob Wohl. Jacob Wohl is like a conservative first responder who is prone to say and Tweets “I just left a hipster coffee shop and heard whatever it is I want to hear,” uh and um he got into a crazy amount of trouble by claiming that he had evidence that Robert Mueller committed sexual assault and then very very clumsily planting that evidence in a very um easy to discern way and so he was ridiculed on social media by having the I just left a hipster coffee shop phrase thrown back at him over and over again.
GOLDMAN: I feel like we're at yes yes yes. I'm wondering what we learned today.
PJ: You mean like a sitcom ending way?
GOLDMAN: Yeah. (laughs)
PJ: If anyone's gonna be able to pull this off, Alex Blumberg it’s you.
BLUMBERG: I learned that I've spent my whole life wanting a family but I found out that my family is right here with me all along.
GOLDMAN: Not bad. It's kind of sweet.
PJ: Do we all have to do one or are we good on that?
GOLDMAN: No, I think we're fine.
PJ: Can I do one more thing before we go?
PJ: I just literally want to play us out on the greatest song in the world-
GOLDMAN: Which is?
PJ: Which is the theme song for Action News, Philadelphia. That's all I want. Oh my God, it's so good. You guys didn't grow up with this in your hearts, but you could have. Okay.
[plays Action News theme song]
BLUMBERG: This is another edition of Philly Sports Yes, Yes, No. Brought to you by our host Alex blumberg and
PJ: PJ Vogt.
GOLDMAN: I don't want to do this.
GOLDMAN: This is a jam though.
Reply All is hosted by PJ Vogt and me, Alex Goldman. We’re produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Bennin, Damiano Marchetti, Anna Foley and Jessica Yung. The show is edited by Tim Howard. We were mixed by Rick Kwan, fact-checking by Michelle Harris. Our intern is Heather Schröering. Our theme song is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder.
Special thanks this week to Will Sommer from The Daily Beast.
Matt Lieber is getting a phone call and having it not turn out to be spam.
You can listen to our show on Spotify, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you soon.
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