After all that had happened in the past couple of weeks, one would think that the Sunday news shows would have something to discuss other than debunked conspiracy theories about a months-old murder. And yet, Newt Gingrich took the time on Fox & Friends Sunday to delve into the fever swamp a bit, if only to complain about the lack of clear scope in the special counsel investigation into allegations of Russian influence and interference in the election:
The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel is appalled:
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a stalwart supporter of President Trump, used a Sunday-morning appearance on “Fox and Friends” to spread the conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was killed last year to cover up the true story of how WikiLeaks obtained tens of thousands of hacked Democratic Party emails.
“We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments,” Gingrich said.
“Nobody’s investigating that, and what does that tell you about what’s going on? Because it turns out, it wasn’t the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee. He’s been killed, and apparently nothing serious has been done to investigative his murder. So I’d like to see how [Robert S.] Mueller [III] is going to define what his assignment is.”
This misses a small piece of context for the comment, which was Newt’s complaint about the ambiguous scope of Robert Mueller’s probe. Just what gets included in this investigation about Russian influence anyway? Gingrich raised a couple of good points along the way, especially the Uranium One deal that put $500,000 directly into the Clintons’ bank account while Hillary served as Secretary of State. Unfortunately, Gingrich’s embrace of a discredited and completely unsupported conspiracy theory craters the credibility of his argument.
For almost a solid year, the family of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich has been begging people to stop using his death to promote conspiracy theories. At first, Wikileaks and Julian Assange tried to promote the idea that Rich had been killed because he was one of their sources, although Assange refused to explicitly say so. Wikileaks accused the Hillary Clinton campaign of ignoring the Rich murder to blame the hack of the DNC on the Russians, which is what US intelligence eventually concluded was the source. The Rich family denied he had anything to do with Wikileaks and that the murder of their son was not political, but a botched robbery as the police indicated.
Last week, a private investigator stirred the pot all over again by claiming that the FBI was blocking the investigation, holding onto Rich’s laptop and keeping the DC police from asking too many questions. Rod Wheeler insisted to a DC Fox affiliate that the laptop contained over 44,000 e-mails to Wikileaks, 17,000+ of which had attachments of some kind, and that the FBI was covering up the murder. That story fell apart when Wheeler retracted his claims, which were based on what he originally told Fox was an FBI source, blaming the reversal on a “miscommunication.” The FBI, for its part, noted that they never took the laptop (the DC police kept custody of it at the time), nor did it have any communications to Wikileaks. The Rich family angrily denied Wheeler’s claims and demanded that he refrain from commenting any further on the case. Wheeler turned out to be a crank who once alleged (in 2007) that lesbians had formed scores of gangs carrying pink pistols to rape girls and young women.
And of course, the Russian embassy chimed in on Friday to accuse Rich of being a “Wikileaks informer,” just two days before Gingrich suggested the same thing. Perfect.
The reason that the conspiracy theories fester around the Rich case is that it’s gone unsolved for the last ten months. The fact that Rich still had his phone and his wallet makes the leading theory of the case — a bungled robbery — seem weak. However, DC’s murder rate is hardly low, and bungled robberies are hardly unknown either. Not all such random-chance murders get solved, immediately or otherwise. There is literally no evidence for any other theories of this case, especially (as it turns out) Wheeler’s. In order to believe in the Wheeler theory, one would have to suppose a conspiracy between the DC police, the FBI, and Seth Rich’s own family for the purpose of protecting either the DNC or Wikileaks in order to blame the Russians for the DNC hack. It’s nonsense on stilts.
In the future, those with responsibility for public trust should refrain from exploiting the Rich family to pursue their own hobby-horse agenda. If legitimate evidence arises of a better theory or likelier suspects in the Rich murder, cover that rather than simply speculate in the absence of evidence. That should apply even more to those who want to serve in government, or those whose spouses have been tapped to be ambassadors for the United States. The upcoming confirmation hearing for that Vatican spot may be rather interesting after all.