At around 4:20 am on 20 July 2016, in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington DC, a 27-year-old man named Seth Rich was shot twice in the back while walking home to his nearby appartment from a local bar. He died in hospital around 90 minutes later. Seth was an employee of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Washington police claimed Rich was most likely the victim of a botched robbery, but nothing was actually stolen from him. His face and body had bruises, indicating a violent scuffle. Although there were CCTV cameras all over the neighbourhood (an amateur sleuth counted 23 cameras between Seth Rich’s house and the bar where he had been drinking) police said they could only find a brief video of two assailants' legs.
Initial reports claimed the FBI was not involved in the case, but they later admitted to possessing Seth Rich’s phone and laptop and even released some files.
In early August 2016 Julian Assange told Dutch TV:
"Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material, often very significant risks. There’s a 27-year-old that works for the DNC who was shot in the back, murdered, just two weeks ago, for unknown reasons as he was walking down the street in Washington."
Was he saying that Seth Rich was a WikiLeaks source?
"I am suggesting that our sources take risks and they become concerned to see things occurring like that."
WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward to help find Seth Rich’s killer(s).
In 2019 online entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, a strong WikiLeaks supporter, told Consortium News how he had helped put Seth Rich (who used the name "panda" online) in contact with someone linked to WikiLeaks:
"I was approached by a young gentleman over Twitter with the Twitter handle Panda-something and he told me that he’s working with the Democrat Party and he was fed up with what was happening in the US and he would be interested to talk with me. And then I took that straight into an encrypted channel where we chatted about what’s going on and we had a few back and forth and he told me that he had information that would be quite shocking if it was made public. He believed that there was massive corruption going on within the DNC. He was very concerned about voter fraud… So I said look, this was all very interesting, but I was in the middle of my case and I was involved in this massive fight against the US so I did not want to be the recipient of any of that information. So I put him in touch with someone that I know in the data security space that is very knowledgeable and has worked with WikiLeaks in the past and I simply established the contact between that person and this person. And everything that happened after that is what we know know as the DNC leaks / hack."
On the day after the 2016 US election, Ellen Ratner, the wife of deceased WikiLeaks lawyer Michael Ratner, appeared on US television and revealed that she had spent three hours talking with Julian Assange just a few days earlier.
"He said the leaks were not from the Russians. They were from an internal source from the Hillary campaign or from somone who knew Hillary, an enemy. He does not think they’re from Russians. Russia got credit for something WikiLeaks should have got credit for."
Ratner was more or less reiterating what Craig Murray had previously stated. A week later, Murray revealed that he had personally received the leaked data via an intermediary in Washington DC.
Neither of [the leaks] came from the Russians. The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks… Regardless of whether the Russians hacked into the DNC, the documents Wikileaks published did not come from that.
Months after the US election, Assange was still insisting that Russia was not WikiLeaks' source. He told Sean Hannity he was still "1,000% confident" that the source was not Russia.
“We can say, we have said, repeatedly that over the last two months that our source is not the Russian government and it is not a state party,” Assange said.
In 2019, a group of former US intelligence agents provided compelling evidence that the emails had in fact come from a leak, not a hack. Their detailed analysis of email metadata proved that the emails had most likely been transferred from the DNC server to a thumb drive by a DNC insider.
On 17 December 2016, a Dallas businessman named Ed Butowsky contacted the family of Seth Rich and told them that he had a message for them from Julian Assange. He said he had received the message via a mutual friend, Ellen Ratner, who denied ever giving him such a message. The message, Butowsky said, was that Seth Rich had been a WikiLeaks source for the DNC leaks.
This visit triggered a series of events that lead to years of complex legal battles. According to Butowsky’s lawsuit, Seth Rich’s father Joel initially said that he already knew both his sons, Seth and Aaron, were involved in the leaks:
During that conversation, Mr. Rich told Mr. Butowsky that he already knew that his sons were involved in the DNC email leak, but he and his wife just wanted to know who murdered Seth. Mr. Rich said he was reluctant to go public with Seth’s and Aaron’s role in leaking the emails because “we don’t want anyone to think our sons were responsible for getting Trump elected."
Butowsky offered to provide the Rich family with a private detective to help them find out who killed their son. The Rich family had previously received pro bono public relations assistance from a right-wing fraudster named Jack Burkman, but distanced themselves from him after he claimed that Seth had been killed by Russians who were covering up evidence of their DNC hacking. Butowsky hired Rod Wheeler, a former homicide detective with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington DC, who were nominally in charge of the murder investigation. Both Butowsky and Wheeler had links to FOX News.
On 16 May 2017 FOX News published an explosive story about an anonymous US federal investigator who claimed to have reviewed an FBI forensic report detailing the contents of Seth Rich’s computer, including emails between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks. It quoted ex-detective Rod Wheeler saying:
“My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and Wikileaks. 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 story provoked a huge uproar, with politicians and journalists alike condemning it. ABC News reported that "FBI and other law enforcement officials" were dismissing the story as "a conspiracy theory":
According to officials with knowledge of the matter, the FBI is not investigating the unsolved murder of Seth Rich last year in what agents have determined was “a possible attempted robbery” gone wrong. Asked about the possible connection between Rich and WikiLeaks, one official told ABC News that “the only place I’ve seen that is through the conspiracy theories online."
FOX News retracted their story a week later and apologised. After multiple complaints from CNN journalist Oliver Darcy, the author Malia Zimmerman also deleted her tweets about the story. The Washington Times also retracted an article, written by retired US Navy admiral James Lyons, who claimed that it was “well known in the intelligence circles” that both Seth and Aaron Rich had “downloaded” the thousands of emails taken from the DNC in 2016 and that Wikileaks had paid them for the data.
The family of Seth Rich sent Rod Wheeler a cease and desist letter. Wheeler responded by suing FOX News for mis-quoting him (he later dropped the case).
By now the Rich family was being represented by a "family spokesman" named Brad Bauman, who was described as "a PR consultant who had kicked around Democratic politics for years". Bauman told the media:
“So much of the conspiracy theory has been dependent on the allegation of federal investigators being involved, and the fact that the FBI has not and never had been involved with this investigation is critical to understanding just how false these conspiracy theories are."
This was simply not true. The FBI was most certainly involved. At that time, however, journalists just didn’t have the evidence to prove it.
Ed Butowsky’s court filings noted how the Rich family’s behaviour had "changed suddenly" once Brad Bauman got involved:
Under coercion from Mr. Bauman and the lawyer Defendants named in this lawsuit, Joel Rich stopped speaking with Mr. Butowsky and the Rich family started attacking Mr. Butowsky publicly (albeit not by name). Prior to the time of Mr. Bauman’s involvement, the Rich family acknowledged to friends and relatives that Seth and Aaron were involved in the DNC email leak, but then they suddenly changed their story. On information and belief, Mr. Butowksy alleges that Joel, Mary, and Aaron Rich were told that Aaron could be charged with felony computer crimes if they did not cooperate with their new handlers, i.e., Mr. Bauman and the lawyer Defendants.
Kim Dotcom agreed that the Rich family’s behaviour change was "very suspicious":
So to me it was very suspicious how they have dealt with anyone who was trying to shed some light on this and you read between the lines and you see how they they react to things. And also their relationships, the fact that this guy Baumann gets involved, who is really a PR person for the DNC, and now runs the whole communications strategy and defends and basically stifles any kind of conversation about this topic. The fact that the family allowed that guy to get involved when there was some, you know, at the very least, if I was the parent of Seth Rich, I would would be saying, well, I mean this whole robbery story just doesn’t add up.
Meanwhile Sy Hersh, the Pulitzer-winning journalist who exposed the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, was also investigating the Seth Rich murder and broader claims of Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Hersh had been communicating with Ed Butowsky since a mutual friend put them in touch in late January 2017. Hersh told Butowsky that he had also seen a secret FBI report that identified Seth Rich as a WikiLeaks source.
"I have someone on the inside who will go and read a file for me and I know this person is unbelievably accurate and careful. He’s a very high-level guy, he’ll do a favor."
Hersh said the FBI report showed that Seth Rich was seeking money for the emails, which he had stored in an online Dropbox, and that he had shared the Dropbox location with others "so if anything happens to me it’s not going to solve your problem”.
Unfortunately, Butowsky was secretly recording his conversations with Hersh. In August 2017 an audio file of this conversation was published online. This forced Hersh to abandon the story because his sources were now in danger.
At the time of Seth Rich’s murder, John Brennan was head of the CIA and Andrew McCabe was head of the FBI. Sy Hersh told Butowsky that he believed the whole anti-Russian narrative was "a Brennan operation". Hersh also said (according to Butowsky) that he had personally spoken with McCabe, who later told journalists that he had asked his FBI staff about the Seth Rich murder - was there was anything there to see? He said he was told "there’s no 'there' there."
Robert Mueller’s extensive investigation into Russian election meddling also failed to link Seth Rich with the DNC leaks. Mind you, Mueller never even tried to question Julian Assange.
In late 2018 the NSA sent a FOI response to Butowsky’s lawyer Ty Clevenger, saying they had identified 15 documents (32 pages) that matched his request for information about Seth Rich, but they were all marked SECRET or TOP SECRET - which meant than none would be released. It seemed strange that documents about a supposedly routine DC murder investigation would be marked TOP SECRET - perhaps they were part of the WikiLeaks/Assange investigations and only peripherally mentioned Seth Rich? Who knew.
By now Butowsky was frustrated. He said he felt he was just an unlucky chump who had tried to help out the Rich family and ended up in a convoluted mess. He said he had spent over $800,000 on lawsuits. But he also had some suspiciously close connections to the Trump White House team. In 2020, when Trump lost power, Butowsky began dropping his lawsuits and publicly retracting his claims about the Seth Rich case.
A lawyer for Butowsky told Rolling Stone that Butowsky had “decided to re-prioritize his life” and “does not wish to discuss the litigation any further.” The lawyer, Ty Clevenger, said Butowsky’s views about Seth Rich and the 2016 election had not changed. And Clevenger himself went on to dispute Rolling Stone‘s reporting on the case, claiming “the FBI has been hiding evidence from Seth Rich’s laptop, just like the FBI was hiding evidence from Hunter Biden’s laptop. I wouldn’t be surprised if the evidence was kept in the same room.”
Ty Clevenger continued lodging Freedom of Information (FOI) requests with the FBI on behalf of another Texan businessman, Brian Huddleston. The FBI continued denying that they had any information about Seth Rich. But eventually Clevenger hit pay dirt.
A series of emails between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page - titled "Seth Rich" and dated just a month after his murder - turned up in response to another FBI FOI request from a group called Judicial Watch. This proved that the FBI had indeed taken an interest in the murder, and had been withholding information from Clevenger.
Finally, in April 2021, nearly five years since Seth Rich’s death, the FBI produced 68 pages of documents from the DNC staffer’s laptop.
A judge ordered the FBI to release even more FOI data on Seth Rich, but in October 2022 the FBI asked a court to overturn this decision. They claimed they would need a whopping sixty six years to produce such data!
At the time of writing (early 2023), the FBI is still using semantic games to delay releasing further information. The FBI has "images" (exact copies) of the contents of both Seth Rich’s personal laptop and his work computer. They are arguing that they do not need to release the requested information because they do not have the actual machines in their possession. Ty Clevenger says the distinction between physical evidence and "digital evidence" is being used as an excuse to keep information off the FBI index systems:
“The FBI can say anything is digital evidence and they don’t enter it into their index systems and nobody ever knows about it, or nobody ever finds it.”
Check Clevenger’s Lawflog blog for further updates.
Want more detailed info? Look here: https://jaraparilla.blogspot.com/2019/08/who-killed-seth-rich-story.html