In a murder that remains unsolved, DNC staffer Seth Rich was gunned down last year on his way home from a local bar. Police said it was most likely a botched robbery. Rich’s phone, wallet, and other personal effects were untouched. But while derided by the mainstream corporate press as a conspiracy theory, there is concern among people on both sides of the political aisle that Seth Rich was killed for handing off troves of incriminating DNC emails to WikiLeaks.
Corporate news outlets call the conspiracy theory debunked, which as a claim is inherently absurd, as it’s not possible to have debunked theories about a murder that remains unsolved. Until a case is proven, no theory can be declared truly debunked.
Below we examine the major developments to determine if there is any actual support for theories that Seth Rich was ordered killed by high-level Democratic officials for turning into a whistleblower. Does any of it add up, or is it just silly nonsense for bored young Trump supporters in tinfoil hats?
We may not have the answers, but with an honest examination of the events surrounding the incident, perhaps we can get a little bit closer to figuring out exactly what happened to Seth Rich.
The Russian Democrats Have Been Looking For?
Now-deleted anonymous reports out of Fox News claim that law enforcement sources confirmed Seth Rich was the source of over 44,000 emails taken from the DNC — an even more explosive claim considering ubiquitous insistence from politicans and pundits that the hacking came from Russian actors in an attempt to ensure a Trump victory in 2016 presidential race. The retraction of the Fox News piece was due to their source walking back his comments, Rich family requests to be left alone, threats from Fox advertisers, and scorn from other media outlets.
Reports based on anonymous sources should not, and cannot, be trusted on their own. And we already know that the source of a hack can be simulated to appear to come from the cyber defense divisions of foreign nations, so we may never know where the hack really came from. However, other indicators have emerged that back up Fox’s anonymously-sourced report.
Hackers Drop Hints
Seemingly hinting (but never saying outright) that Seth Rich was the DNC leaker, WikiLeaks honcho Julian Assange said the following in an interview on Dutch television:
“Whistleblowers often take very significant efforts to bring us material and often at very significant risks…There’s a 27-year-old who works for the DNC and who was shot in the back, murdered, just a few weeks ago, for unknown reasons as he was walking down the streets in Washington.”
Fueling the suspicion further, WikiLeaks offered a $20k reward in exchange for information leading to the conviction of Rich’s killer.
Rich’s family criticized Assange for “politicizing” their son’s murder. But later, globally-renowned hacker icon Kim Dotcom tweeted that he knew Seth Rich personally, and could vouch that he had been the DNC leaker because Dotcom himself was “involved.” Soon after, these tweets, he released a carefully-crafted, legally-worded letter announcing he would be willing to testify under oath and provide proof.
Finally, as reported by the UK’s Daily Mail, an ex-British Ambassador claims he met with an intermediary for a leaker in a D.C. park, claiming the leaker was a democratic insider “disgusted” by the DNC’s activities.
An ardent Bernie supporter despite having been hired late in the season to work on the Clinton campaign, Seth Rich fits the profile described by the ex-British Ambassador.
Exposed as defrauding Sanders out of winning the primaries as part of a bona fide conspiracy to propel Clinton to the general election, a DNC employee and Bernie Sanders megafan like Seth Rich probably would have been none too happy with the DNC’s sabotage of his favorite candidate.
His position in the DNC working on voter registration, analytics, and similar programs could have made him privy to the DNC’s fraudulent activities, and put him in a position to leak DNC emails to topple part of the conspiracy. Whoever leaked them, they led to the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, but of course, Hillary Clinton would still be announced as the 2016 democratic candidate despite the proven foul play.
Given Seth Rich’s level of access within the DNC, a pair of Tweets exchanged by Rich family members in May of this year was passed around excitedly by researchers crowd-investigating his murder:
Newsweek Report: This Killer Has Killed Before
The Profiling Project is an independent, non-partisan academic group pooling their efforts in an attempt to bring Seth Rich’s killer to justice. It’s being led by a Ph.D in clinical and forensic psychology, and a former U.S. Marine and criminal investigator. Its staff consists of Master’s students pursuing Forensic Psychology degrees at George Washington University.
And, as reported in Newsweek, the result of their three-month investigation found that Seth Rich was most likely either murdered by someone who has killed multiple other people, indicating either a serial killer, or a hitman-for-hire. Their reasons include the extremely clean, evidence-free crime scene (no shell casings), careful use of force by the shooter, a lack of “emotional indications” in the crime and the fact that Rich was white — according to the academics behind The Profiling Project, “only 6 percent of unsolved homicides in D.C. in 2016 involved non-African-Americans.”
From the fact that Seth didn’t actually die on the scene, The Profiling Project concluded that his death wasn’t the work of a professional hitman (or at least, not a good hitman). But theorists contend that none of that actually mattered. Maybe, they say, all the DNC needed was to ensure that Seth Rich would be sent to the hospital. We’ll explore this thread later.
Liz Crokin of WND.com claims to have spoken to the manager of Lou’s City Bar, the watering hole where Seth was allegedly last seen. According to Crokin’s report of that conversation, police never interviewed the bar owner, nor asked for surveillance tapes that would have shown Seth at the bar. To make matters stranger, the owner of Lou’s — one Joseph P. Capone — is shown in logs to have visited the White House four days before Rich was killed in a visit that included a tour of the usually-exclusive East Wing offices. Capone appears to have since deleted all his Twitter content starting after May 18, 2016, removing all tweets refrencing his early July White House visit.
Jack Burkman, founder of the Profiling Project that was the subject of the article in Newsweek, also complained to WND that “key information” was withheld from his team that police agencies typically make public. For example, in a strange coincidence, guns were stolen from a federal vehicle just before Seth Rich was shot, a couple of miles from the scene of the murder. However, since police wouldn’t release their ballistics report, Burkman’s team could not determine if the bullets could have come from the .40 caliber handgun that was stolen from the vehicle. In addition, both police body camera and street CCTV surveillance footage have been kept under wraps by officials. 4Chan users identified dozens of D.C. street cameras that may have captured moments of Rich’s walk home, including:
Whether or not these apparent investigative holes are being left open on purpose, no one can say. But when extraordinary levels of secrecy are applied to what police claim is an ordinary murder case, it’s sure to raise at least a few eyebrows.
From the Hospital Shadows
MedStar Washington Hospital is most likely the medical center where Rich was taken. This conclusion comes from the fact that Vito Maggiolo, a D.C. EMS public information officer, told WND.com that Seth was in critical condition on the way to the hospital. This makes it likely that Medstar Washington Hopsital, the only area hospital with a surgical trauma unit, would have been Rich’s destination rather than also-nearby Howard University Hospital.
The head of the surgical team at Medstar is Dr. Jack Sava, an M.D. with an influential wife seen on visitor logs as having visited the White House dozens of times, and who is closely connected with Democratic Party capo John Podesta. This revelation comes from spreadsheets and other emails from WikiLeaks’ phished email dump of John Podesta’s account. Below you can find Sava and his lobbyist wife Lisa Kountoupes on a guest list for an event with the Podestas:
And here is a WikiLeaks email to both Kountoupes and Podesta for another event:
If the DNC wanted Seth Rich to die at the hospital, it would take a (preferably high-ranking) inside guy to ensure it would happen.
But the plot thickened further when an anoymous hospital employee emerged with tales of strange goings-on during the night Seth Rich arrived.
Chiming into a citizen-investigation discussion on the notorious image board 4Chan, an anonymous contributor claiming to be an employee of MedStar Washington Hospital reported unusual security and other procedures at the hospital that evening. Of course, the anonymous and unverifiable nature of 4Chan posts automatically makes all claims suspect. 4Chan users even have a term for anonymous posters pretending to be insiders for fun or attention: LARPers, or “Live Action Role Players”.
However, factors like the writing style and use of medical shothand give the post a feeling of verisimillitude that is difficult to fake, even for a fairly skilled writer. Medical terminology used by the contributor included “LR” for Lactated Ringers, a solution given to patients with high levels of blood loss, “LEOs” for law enforcement officers, “post-surgery crit” for post-surgery critical care, and “exlap” for exploratory laparotomy, a surgery that inspects organs for damage or illness, among others. A newcomer to medical writing would need to have done extensive research to know these terms, much less use them correctly and in a way that was consistent with what we know about Rich’s injuries.
The contributor wrote:
Make of their claims what you will, but it’s be hard to deny that the presentation of their comments has a ring of truth to it. Whether it’s the work of a bored medical student trolling 4Chan users or a genuine report, it fueled theories that Rich’s murder was a political assassination that was completed not in the streets, but in the hospital itself.
“Shoot the Panda”
Bear with me for this section, as we’re about to head into admittedly more speculative territory. But I think it’s worth doing, given the strangeness of the coincidences involved.
During the 2016 election season, an article came out in Vanity Fair about why Hillary Clinton’s defeat of Bernie Sanders in the primaries was “inevitable.”
I actually remember reading the article when it came out, and was completely confunded by it. The reason for my confusion was an inability to make sense of the incoherent opening paragraph. As a writer, perhaps especially in journalism, your goal is for every word and meaning to be 100% intentional and clear. The leading paragraph of the Vanity Fair article is neither.
It launches into a bizarre metaphor involving a panda and a priceless vase, and how “shooting the panda” in front of onlookers would be bad, because the vase would shatter and everyone would become unhappy. But, given the potency and popularity of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, the author implies that the panda should be shot regardless in order for Hillary Clinton to win. Damn the vase, he says — Clinton’s win is inevitable despite Bernie’s clear resonance with voters.
If that was hard for you to make sense of, I don’t blame you. I found the metaphor bizarre and ineffective, more like an inside joke for the author and a few of his friends than a coherent literary device for his readers. But the rest of the article made more sense, and with no context for the strange opener, I moved on from it.
Below is a screen grab of the paragraph in question, with URLs to the article:
Several of Seth Rich’s social media handles included panda references. For example, his Reddit username was /u/Pandas4Bernie, and two of his his Twitter usernames were @Panda4Progress and @Pandas4Bernie.
“…in late 2014 a person contacted me about helping me to start a branch of the Internet Party in the United States. He called himself Panda. I now know that Panda was Seth Rich. Panda advised me that he was working on voter analytics tools and other technologies that the Internet Party may find helpful. I communicated with Panda on a number of topics including corruption and the influence of corporate money in politics. He wanted to change that from the inside.”
It isn’t entirely clear what Bauman’s reasoning is for saying Dotcom has no credibility here. As mentioned earlier, Dotcom’s legal team released a statement that he is willing to testify under oath regarding his alleged relationship with Seth Rich, and Dotcom’s connections in the hacking world make him something of a WikiLeaks insider.
Indecipherable as it was, the strange intro to the Vanity Fair piece wasn’t interpreted in isolation. An email from Clinton Campaign manager John Podesta sent about a year before the Vanity Fair article was published discussed “making an example” of someone Clinton’s inner circle suspected had become a leaker — even as they admitted their suspicions were totally unverified:
Even if this email has nothing to do with Seth Rich, it shows the total ruthlessness with which modern political machines operate.
And that’s the story of how a Vanity Fair article with a nonsensical lede took on new cultural and political meanings many months later, after Seth Rich’s murder. Whether or not those meanings are justified, the coincidences that surround them are undeniably intriguing to consider.
So What Happened to Seth Rich?
We may never know what really happened to Seth Rich. But despite being derided as a “fake news conspiracy,” the theory that Seth Rich was murdered for becoming a whistleblower can’t be fairly classified as debunked.
It’s already bizarre how many people investigating the fraud at the DNC have ended up dead, and now with lawsuits coming the DNC’s way, lawyers for the plaintiffs have reported receiving enough threatening emails and phone calls to request protection from the court for themselves, their plantiffs, plaintiff’s families, and witnesses. Their requests have been denied, despite the fact that multiple witnesses for their cases have turned up dead, along with others involved in DNC lawsuits.
The question is: how many people, all involved in cases against the same organization, need to “just happen” to turn up dead or murdered before that organization falls under some kind of scrutiny for the string of deaths? At what point to the deaths defy statistical probability that they were all just coincidences?
For the number of coincidences surrounding the case — not all of which have even been outlined here — I think that as long as Seth Rich’s murder is unsolved, the idea that the DNC was involved remains just as valid as any of the official theories explaining his death.