A low-level staffer from the Democrat National Committee, there only because he wants to make a difference in the world, accidentally stumbles upon evidence that the party has rigged its presidential primary. Instead of the unapologetic, idealistic socialist who wants to shake up the system, the power brokers want to nominate the corporate crony with close ties to Wall Street and a history of taking money for political favors. It’s an outrage that goes against everything the young staffer believes in–but what can he do? Tortured, drinking too much, doubting everything he’s ever believed in, he finally decides to take action and passes information to an internet journalist that blows the whole scheme wide open.
And they kill him for it.
If you think it all sounds like the story from an overwrought political potboiler–think Dan Brown without all the hokey symbolism–you’re not the only one. But there really was a DNC staffer named Seth Rich who, while walking home from a bar late at night almost one year ago, was approached from behind by two assailants and shot twice in the back. He survived long enough to make it to a hospital, but died shortly thereafter. Twelve days later, Wikileaks published the DNC emails.
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, never revealed the source of the emails–but he always maintained that they came from someone inside the DNC, not from a Russian hack as the American intelligence community has alleged. And although Assange has never identified Seth Rich as the inside man, Wikileaks did post a $20,000 reward for information that led to the arrest of his killers. This has naturally led to a flurry if speculation as to why Rich was killed–and if he was indeed the source for the leaked emails that helped to derail the presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
A lot of that speculation has been rightfully consigned to the looney bin of wacky conspiracy theories–yet another body added to the count of Clinton associates who mysteriously ended up dead–but the subject has come up again, as these things have a tendency to do. Fox 5, a local affiliate in DC, is now reporting that a private investigator working on behalf of Rich’s family believes that Rich actually did have contact with Wikileaks in the weeks leading up to his death:
[Rod] Wheeler, a former D.C. police homicide detective, is running a parallel investigation into Rich’s murder. He said he believes there is a cover-up and the police department has been told to back down from the investigation.
“The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming,” said Wheeler. “They haven’t been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both.”
When we asked Wheeler if his sources have told him there is information that links Rich to Wikileaks, he said, “Absolutely. Yeah. That’s confirmed.”
Wheeler also told us, “I have a source inside the police department that has looked at me straight in the eye and said, ‘Rod, we were told to stand down on this case and I can’t share any information with you.’ Now, that is highly unusual for a murder investigation, especially from a police department. Again, I don’t think it comes from the chief’s office, but I do believe there is a correlation between the mayor’s office and the DNC and that is the information that will come out [Tuesday].
Sounds pretty explosive, doesn’t it? But note that Wheeler says “confirmed” when he only has one source–and an anonymous one at that. By generally accepted journalistic standards, that’s pretty sloppy. Or, as Alex Griswold from the Washington Free Beacon puts it:
Hey, so I watched your segment, and it's entirely hearsay https://t.co/oUbr4pQqF2
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) May 16, 2017
Fox News, however, has also waded into the story this morning, and claims it has a second, independent source that is saying the same thing:
“I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and Wikileaks,” the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department.
The federal investigator, who requested anonymity, said 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments between Democratic National Committee leaders, spanning from January 2015 through late May 2016, were transferred from Rich to MacFadyen before May 21.
Again, it’s an anonymous source–but they do confirm one another, which would seem to lend some credence to Wheeler’s claims. That is, until you read the statement from Rich’s family, which pretty much denies that any of this is true:
Seth Rich family spokesperson: "no evidence," "no emails" suggesting Wikileaks links. Comes day after story claiming family PI found links pic.twitter.com/vmp2oQpcG2
— Alex Campbell (@alexcampbell) May 16, 2017
Most telling to me is how the family said that they didn’t hire Rod Wheeler themselves, but instead were offered his services by a third party that has been paying all the bills. Couple that with this story about how the family didn’t want Wikileaks spinning Rich’s murder into wild conspiracy tales, and it definitely appears as if they don’t want anything to do with this. All of the news coverage should be forthright about that fact, though most of it isn’t.
So is it all a bunch of hooey, or is there something to the accusations of a nefarious cover up? The mystery writer in me would love to explore the latter–but in reality, conspiracies are very hard to carry out, and given the level of incompetence shown by the DNC in protecting their own emails, the idea that they could put out a contract on someone and get away with it seems farfetched. Still, in deference to my inner Poirot, there remain a few nagging questions about how the investigation was conducted. To wit:
- Why did the police assume a robbery when nothing was stolen from from Rich?
- If video footage of the assailants exists, why hasn’t it been released to the public to possibly aid in their identification?
- Why is DC Metro reluctant to discuss a cold case with the media, when doing so might bring forth clues that could help solve it?
- Why don’t police detectives say whether or not they were able to speak with Rich before he died at the hospital?
- If the feds have Rich’s laptop and know about the emails, why have they continued to blame the Russians for hacking them?