By Debra Heine
Fox News is now reporting, based on multiple investigative sources, that Seth Rich — the Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down in Northwest D.C. near his home last July — leaked thousands of DNC emails to WikiLeaks in the months beforehand.
According to Fox News’ Malia Zimmerman, these new revelations are consistent with the findings of Rod Wheeler, a former D.C. homicide detective and Fox News contributor. Wheeler told Fox 5 DC that there is evidence on Rich’s laptop that confirms he was emailing WikiLeaks prior to his death. Wheeler’s law enforcement sources also allegedly claimed they were told to “stand down” on investigating the crime.
Rich’s family, however, has denounced Wheeler’s claims in a statement, calling them “unsubstantiated.”
Via Fox News:
A federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report — generated within 96 hours after DNC staffer Seth Rich’s murder — detailing the contents Rich’s computer said he made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time.
“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 revelation is consistent with the findings of Rod Wheeler, a former DC homicide detective and Fox News contributor and whose private investigation firm was hired by a third party on behalf of Rich’s family to probe the case. Rich was shot from behind in the wee hours, but was not robbed.
“My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks,” Wheeler said. “I do believe that the answers to who murdered Seth Rich sits on his computer on a shelf at the DC police or FBI headquarters.”
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.
Rich left Lou’s City Bar, a couple miles from his home, at about 1:15 a.m. on July 10. His immediate activities after leaving the bar remain a mystery:
He walked home, calling several people along the way. He called his father, Joel Rich, who he missed because he had gone to sleep. He talked with a fraternity brother and his girlfriend, Kelsey Mulka.
Around 4:17 a.m., Rich was about a block from his home when Mulka, still on the phone with him, heard voices in the background. Rich reassured her that he was steps away from being at his front door and hung up.
Two minutes later, Rich was shot twice. Police were on the scene within three minutes. Rich sustained bruising on his hands and face. He remained conscious, but died at a nearby hospital less than two hours later.
Police detectives will not say whether Rich provided them with any clues about the identity of his attackers or their motivation, Wheeler said. However, Wheeler believes Rich could have provided information prior to his death of who was responsible for carrying out his murder.
Grainy video tape from a security camera outside a grocery mart shows two assailants shooting Rich twice in his back. They did not take “his wallet, cell phone, keys, watch or necklace worth about $2,000.”
On July 22, just twelve days after Rich was murdered, WikiLeaks published emails that prompted the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz from her role as DNC chairperson on the eve of the Democratic National Convention. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has insisted all along that the DNC emails were not hacked by the Russians, and he has implied that Rich was indeed the source of the emails. On August 9, WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information on the murdered DNC staffer.
Assange told a Dutch reporter last August:
[O]ur sources take risks, and they, they become concerned to see things occurring like that, whistle-blowers go to significant efforts to get us material and often very significant risks. As a 27-year-old, works for the DNC, was shot in the back, murdered just a few weeks ago for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington.
Fox News reports that law enforcement sources “close to the investigation” say the police have “no suspects and no substantial leads as to who the killer or killers may be”:
Metropolitan Police, including the police chief, have refused to discuss the case, despite requests from Fox News dating back 10 months.
The department released a statement on the case saying it remains an active investigation and that detectives are working with Rich’s family.
“If there are any individuals who feel they have information, we urge them to call us at (202) 727-9099 or text us at 50411,” read the statement. “The department is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information on this case that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.”
The FBI’s national office declined to comment, but sources said the bureau provided cyber expertise to examine Rich’s computer.
Wheeler believes powerful forces are preventing the case from a thorough investigation.
“My investigation shows someone within the D.C. government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward,” Wheeler told Fox News. “That is unfortunate. Seth Rich’s murder is unsolved as a result of that.”
Rich’s family released a statement blasting Rod Wheeler. The statement says he was not authorized to speak to the press about the investigation, and characterizes his findings as “unsubstantiated claims”:
“As we’ve seen through the past year of unsubstantiated claims, we see no facts, we have seen no evidence, we have been approached with no emails and only learned about this when contacted by the press,” the spokesperson said. “Even if tomorrow, an email was found, it is not a high enough bar of evidence to prove interactions as emails can be altered and we’ve seen that those interested in pushing conspiracies will stop at nothing to do so.
“We are a family who is committed to facts, not fake evidence that surfaces every few months to fill the voice and strict law enforcement and the general public from finding Seth’s murderers,” the statement continued. “The services of the private investigator who spoke to press was offered to the Rich family and paid for by a third party, and contractually was barred from speaking to press or anyone outside of law enforcement or the family unless explicitly authorized by the family.”
Rod Wheeler told CNN on Tuesday afternoon that the source for his claim that there was “tangible evidence” on Rich’s laptop that proves that he was in communications with WikiLeaks was the reporter who worked on the story for FoxNews.com (presumably Malia Zimmerman, who based her story on multiple investigative sources).
He explained that the comments he made to WTTG-TV were intended to simply preview Fox News’ Tuesday story. The WTTG-TV news director did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“I only got that [information] from the reporter at Fox News,” Wheeler told CNN. Asked about a quote attributed to him in the Fox News story in which he said his “investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and Wikileaks,” Wheeler said he was referring to information that had already been reported in the media.
He said a “federal investigator that was involved on the inside of the case” saw Rich’s computer and the case file. Wheeler told host Sean Hannity the investigator “came across [as] very credible.
When you look at that, with the totality of everything else that I found in this case, it’s very consistent for a person with my experience to begin to think, ‘Well, perhaps there were some email communication between Seth and Wikileaks.'”
Brad Bauman, a spokesman for the Rich family, said the family was “reviewing possible legal action against Wheeler for speaking about the case publicly.”
A contract between Wheeler and the Rich family prohibited from speaking to the media about his ongoing investigation, Bauman said.
Update: 6:19 p.m. PST 5/17/2017
Another update via Newsweek: A representative from Seth Rich’s family is refuting the Fox News report, saying there is no FBI investigation.
Speaking with Newsweek on Wednesday, Braud Bauman, the family’s representative, says he also has knowledge that the FBI is not investigating Rich’s murder. “We have said all along that the fundamental facts that underline yesterday’s story were false, including the FBI’s investigation, which does not exist, and their role in ever having, seeing or otherwise possessing computer equipment or other equipment that belonged to Seth Rich, either in a personal or professional capacity,” he says.
Refet Kaplan, managing director of FOX News Digital, said in a statement, “We continue to track developments in the story and will update further when the situation warrants.”
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