A perennial House candidate’s alleged harassment of his ex-girlfriend has gone so far that he apparently hired notorious conservative operative Jacob Wohl to pressure her and a former campaign worker, according to text messages and a recording reviewed by The Daily Beast.
Wohl is best known for his blundering, often comical attempts at political trickery, including failed schemes to concoct bogus sexual-assault allegations against former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. But text messages from a phone number belonging to Wohl suggest that the 21-year-old hoaxer has branched out into making death threats on behalf of his political allies, telling one woman he would “torture you so much that you end up killing yourself.”
Aug. 1 was a big day for both allies and former friends of Omar Navarro, a Republican known for his perennial failed campaigns against Donald Trump nemesis Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). Those runs had earned him more than $1 million in campaign donations in his 2018 run, and high-powered endorsements from Trumpworld stalwarts like Herman Cain, Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and game-show host Chuck Woolery. But suddenly his career as a conservative cause célèbre was at risk.
Navarro was due in court in Torrance, California, that day. A judge was due to decide whether his ex-girlfriend—self-styled MAGA relationship expert DeAnna Lorraine Tesoriero—would be granted a restraining order against him after enduring what she describes as months of harassment since dumping him in April.
A restraining order could be disastrous for both Navarro’s fundraising and his already dim electoral chances—he lost his last two races against Waters by more than 50 percentage points. It also wouldn’t be the first time Navarro has been in court on a domestic issue: He was convicted in 2016 of putting an illegal tracking device on his wife’s car.
Making matters worse, former Navarro campaign worker Irina Chausovskaya had had a falling out with the candidate. She claimed to have secretly obtained recordings of the candidate making crude sexual comments about Waters and planning to invest into bitcoin the campaign funds he received from conservative donors across the country. And Chausovskaya and Tesoriero knew one another, raising the prospect of two damaging stories for Navarro’s career as a perennial candidate breaking at the same time.
Shortly before Tesoriero’s court hearing, Chausovskaya received text messages from a number with a 949 area code in Orange County. Whoever was behind the number wanted to know whether Chausovskaya would be at the hearing.
“Don’t worry, I’ll see you soon,” the text message read. “It won’t be painful. I’m looking forward to watching your soul leave your eyes.”
“I’ll make it my mission to torture you so much that you end up killing yourself,” the writer of the messages added.
The text messages were just the latest in a series of threatening text and WhatsApp messages that Chausovskaya and Tesoriero claim to have received over months since angering Navarro.
Usually, the messages came from numbers they had never seen before, sometimes with fake names attached. This time, though, there was a clue as to who was behind the latest round of texts.
A search in the TrueCaller app, which collects phone data from users and phone directories, showed the 949 number was associated with Jacob Wohl. The Daily Beast was able to independently confirm the connection. Calls to the 949 number Wohl has used before that threatened to “torture” Chausovskaya weren’t answered. But the evidence of Wohl’s involvement matched what Tesoriero says she heard from Navarro campaign worker Sean Daniel.
In a recording reviewed by The Daily Beast, a man Tesoriero identifies as Daniel tells her that he had talked to Navarro, who had told Daniel he would hire Wohl for $5,000 to “do something against your career” if she succeeded in getting the restraining order granted.
“He’s going to investigate and spend money with Jacob Wohl, to have you like get obliterated, because he’s gonna be so pissed because his political career, he said, is gonna be over, if he gets another restraining order,” the man in the recording said. “That’s what he told me.”
Daniel, who has been paid $11,665.68 this year by Navarro’s campaign for digital marketing services, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In the recording, the man says that Navarro said he would use campaign money to hire Wohl.
“He raised a lot of money last quarter,” the man in the recording said. “He says he’s got a lot of money to be able to have people go after you.”
There’s no question that Wohl and Navarro know each other. In May, Wohl posted a picture of himself meeting with Navarro in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Instagram.
In an Instagram direct message to The Daily Beast, Wohl denied being “privy to anything regarding any congressional candidate’s personal life.” Navarro denied hiring Wohl, and said any text messages provided to The Daily Beast or used in Tesoriero’s application for a restraining order were “total fake news.” But the judge found Tesoriero credible and granted her a five-year restraining order against Navarro—the longest option available in California.
“What happened in court was not justice,” Navarro said. “It was basically a judge going off of someone crying in a courtroom.”
Navarro’s political career, such as it is, has grown alongside Waters’ profile as a Trump antagonist. Navarro raised less than $3,000 in his 2016 run against Waters, and lost in a landslide.
He also went down in defeat in 2018—but in the lead-up to that race, Waters had become a top enemy for Trump supporters, and Navarro’s campaign treasury was filled with donations from Republicans eager to see her out of Congress. Navarro raised more than $1.1 million in the 2018 cycle—$24,583.04 of which he paid to himself as a salary, an unusual but not unprecedented move for a congressional candidate.
“It’s a cash cow, and they don’t want the cash cow to end,” Chausovskaya said.
Navarro’s reputation in the world of right-wing internet personalities began to wane earlier this year, however, when he allegedly began harassing Tesoriero. Navarro had begun going out with Tesoriero, the author of Trump-themed dating guide Making Love Great Again!, earlier this year, while he was still divorcing his wife. By April, though, Tesoriero told him they were done. He didn’t take it well, according to an application for a restraining order that Tesoriero filed in July.
“Omar became very jealous and became obsessed with accusing me of having other romantic relationships,” Tesoriero wrote in the application.
Tesoriero’s court filing includes a lengthy list of times Navarro allegedly harassed her after she dumped him, including confronting her at Georgetown’s tony Cafe Milano and following her around the lobby at the Trump International Hotel in Washington in May. As Tesoriero left the hotel with her friends, she claims Navarro followed behind her, yelling, “That’s my girlfriend!”
Later that day, Tesoriero says she was deluged with text messages calling her a slut and a whore.
Tesoriero says Navarro threatened to release details about their sex lives and put out other damaging information about her if she wouldn’t get back together with him. She claims she was forced to stay in contact with him for fear that he would attack her on his Twitter account, which has more than 200,000 followers.
“Omar has approximately 225,000 Twitter followers, many of which are in my social and professional network,” Tesoriero wrote in her request for a temporary restraining order. “Terrified of him, but also fearing he would follow through with his threats (which he eventually did) I remained in contact with him for this reason.”
Navarro’s confrontations with Tesoriero came to a head in early July, when they were both in town to appear at a rally organized by the far-right Proud Boys men’s group. On July 3, Navarro showed up at a downtown Washington bar popular with conservatives, where he began to argue with Tesoriero. After a member of the far-right Proud Boys group got in between the two, Navarro stormed out of the bar, and later accused the group on Twitter of stealing his girlfriend and using cocaine.
Meanwhile, Chausovskaya, who had some secret recordings of the candidate, had begun to criticize how Navarro handled his 2018 campaign. On one recording, Navarro speculates about using his windfall of campaign contributions to invest in bitcoin. In another, he discusses which sex acts he would like to perform on Waters. On another, he complains about Asian-American drivers.
“That’s the problem with Torrance, there’s so many Asians right here,” Navarro said on the recording.
The recordings began to circulate on Telegram, a Russian messaging app that’s become popular with American right-wing activists who have been kicked off of other social-media platforms. Some of the recordings were published on a blog operated by anti-Muslim bigot Milo Yiannopoulos, who had started to attack Navarro after the Proud Boys feud.
Chausovskaya began to receive text messages from a number she didn’t know with a 424 area code, in Los Angeles. The man behind the number claimed to be named Joseph Wexler, and said Chausovskaya had “harassed, defamed, and stalked” his “clients.” Wexler claimed to have talked to an FBI agent about Chausovskaya, and planned to take “irreversible action” against her. Wexler also accused Chausovskaya of acting as an unlicensed lawyer for Tesoriero.
In one text message, Wexler said he had visited Chausovskaya’s home—writing out her address to make clear he knew where she lived—but didn’t find her. In another, he said he had gone to a Tucson, Arizona, business operated by her mother.
“You seem like a smart girl with a great future,” one text message read. “Would be a shame if something happened to you. If you don’t meet with us, we can’t guarantee it won’t.”
Tesoriero began to receive messages from the same number, including one with a picture of Tesoriero posing for the camera—with the implication that he had more damaging images to come.
“I want to make you famous,” he wrote. “Cant wait to do so.”
Around the same time, someone using the same phone number texted The Daily Beast and offered to provide “the goods” on a number of right-wing personalities—in exchange for a story critical of Chausovskaya.
When The Daily Beast called the number, a man who identified himself as “Michael Maas” picked up the phone, and claimed that Wexler was a friend who had been borrowing his phone to make the threats.
“I think this was kind of a douchey move for him to use my phone like that,” the man said.
Maas offered to put The Daily Beast in touch with Wexler, but neither person—if they are two different people—responded to further messages.
Days before the restraining-order hearing, Tesoriero began to receive a series of WhatsApp messages from someone who claimed to be outside her bedroom, even noting when she turned off her lights.
“It’s disgusting because they are harassing people,” Tesoriero said. “I never asked for any of this.”
UPDATE 12:34 P.M. In a series of emails to The Daily Beast, Wohl denied he had anything to do with harassing Chausovskaya or Tesoriero. Wohl confirmed that the 949 number used to send threatening texts once belonged to him, but he claimed it was “an incontrovertible fact that I have not had that 949 phone number” in almost a year.
In a subsequent message, Wohl said he had the phone disconnected on November 2, 2018 — a little more than nine months ago, and after his failed attempt to smear Robert Mueller with sexual assault allegations.
“What likely happened? Navarro allegedly threatened to deploy me to act against the interests of this woman,” he wrote. “She then looked up my number in one of those crappy online databases and found my old number to use in photoshopped or otherwise fabricated messages. I’ve never worked for Navarro and have only heard about this woman’s name upon reading the story.”
Wohl wrote in another message, “The 949 number DID NOT belong to me at the time the alleged threat was made. You will retract this bogus story or face legal action.”
It’s hard to know how seriously to take Wohl’s words. In June, Wohl admitted to the Washington Post that one of his previous denials to The Daily Beast was, in fact, untrue.