Ten months ago, a staffer for the Democratic National Committee was found shot to death in Washington DC, and police had few leads to pursue. The family of Seth Rich hired a private investigator to look into his murder, and according to the local Fox affiliate, found a connection between Rich and Wikileaks, a connection that some had hypothesized all along. The DC police and FBI insist that it was a botched robbery, but they have shown no evidence of that motive — and the investigator alleges a cover-up has been put in place.
He might have checked in with the family first before going public, however:
Rod Wheeler, a private investigator hired by the Rich family, suggests there is tangible evidence on Rich’s laptop that confirms he was communicating with WikiLeaks prior to his death.
Now, questions have been raised on why D.C. police, the lead agency on this murder investigation for the past ten months, have insisted this was a robbery gone bad when there appears to be no evidence to suggest that.
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. …
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].
If Wheeler’s correct about what’s on the laptop, it looks as though Rich was an industrial-sized source for Wikileaks:
The Fox News report implies that Seth Rich may have been the one who leaked information about the DNC to WikiLeaks that showed, among other things, that the DNC favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary. While it’s not clear, the report does note that WikiLeaks posted that information just 12 days after Rich was killed.
However, U.S. intelligence officials believe Russia hacked into the DNC and allowed that information to be sent to WikiLeaks.
The report states federal law enforcement investigators found 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments between DNC leaders from January 3015 to May 2016 were sent by Rich to Gavin MacFayden, an American reporter and WikiLeaks director based in London who is now deceased. That information was found in a FBI forensic report on Rich’s computer done within days of his murder.
Let’s take this one at a time, and with a bit of a skeptical eye. Assuming Wheeler’s telling the truth about the laptop and e-mail, the timing certainly looks …. iiiiiiiinteresting. Wikileaks released its DNC e-mail trove in late July 2016, about two weeks after Rich’s murder. That might have been a trigger for releasing it in that time frame, rather than later in the general election calendar. If Rich was their source, his murder meant that they wouldn’t get anything more to publish, and they may have worried that the murder was linked to his leaking. Better to publish quickly, rather than let the issue string out, if Wikileaks began to worry about their own security. (By the way, McFayden died of lung cancer, not under suspicious circumstances.)
However, the FBI insists that the DNC servers were hacked, right? Well, yes, but they got that information second-hand, too. The DNC refused to allow the FBI or the CIA access to their servers, which might be a reasonable position for an American political organization to take, as a moment’s thought would allow. Instead, the FBI accepted the findings from Crowdstrike, an independent contractor, and never examined the source data themselves.
Is it possible that the DNC reversed-engineered a hack to cover the leak, either using Crowdstrike or somehow duping them? That seems very far-fetched, and a simpler answer is available anyway. It’s possible that Wikileaks was getting the data from multiple sources, and that the Russians hacked the DNC while Rich was independently leaking material to them, if in fact he did so at all. And if that was the case, it eliminates most of the conspiracy theories over the cover-up motives, if not the crime itself.
The DC police have denied that they have received a stand-down order on the Rich case, calling Wheeler’s claim “false.” Wheeler’s claims of cover-up seem a little far-fetched, too. Why would the FBI participate in a cover-up of Rich’s death? From James Comey on down, they didn’t bother to hide their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal when it mattered. Unless someone above James Comey ordered a hit on Rich and then leaned all over him to bury it, there’s no motive for a cover-up, and I’m pretty sure that Barack Obama and Loretta Lynch weren’t ordering Code Reds on DNC staffers. The FBI wouldn’t have sat on evidence of a Wikileaks source anyway, especially not with other intelligence officials calling them Russian stooges.
But didn’t the FBI (and the Obama administration) want it to be all about the Russians? Wouldn’t that have been enough to motivate a cover-up? Sure — and that might work if Wikileaks hadn’t also penetrated John Podesta’s e-mails. Seth Rich wouldn’t have had any access to those. Some other entity conducted that penetration, and both Republicans and Democrats briefed on all these matters have at least acknowledged the Russian efforts to penetrate both, plus the RNC too. Rich’s leaks — again, if they occurred — wouldn’t have impacted the conclusions about Russia. At best (or worst), Rich might have been just another source.
It looks salacious, but doesn’t add up. For what it’s worth, the family doesn’t appear to be buying Wheeler’s take either:
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
Let’s just add this to the list of hypotheses that float around as speculation more than evidentiary, much like we saw in the Chandra Levy-Gary Condit theories that ended up being wrong. Until the laptop and the evidence emerge, anyway, we’re simply dealing with hypotheses and hearsay.
Update: It usually pays to be skeptical. According to the FBI, they never had the laptop, and it never had e-mails to any Wikileaks figure:
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) May 16, 2017
Local police in Washington, D.C., never even gave the FBI Rich’s laptop to analyze after his murder, according to the current FBI official.
And a former law enforcement official with first-hand knowledge of Rich’s laptop said the claim was incorrect. “It never contained any e-mails related to WikiLeaks, and the FBI never had it,” the person said.
And Wheeler has developed a reputation for making outlandish claims, such as one appearance on Fox News in 2007 in which he warned that underground networks of pink pistol-toting lesbian gangs were raping young women.
Er … okay.