Earlier this week, a private investigator named Rod Wheeler-whose last big case was promoting a hoax about a national underground network of lesbian gangs-announced that he had evidence that the late Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered past year in Washington, D.C., was in contact with WikiLeaks and transferred them over 40,000 DNC emails. On Friday, the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom tweeted that "Wikileaks informer Seth Rich murdered in USA but [British mainstream media] was so busy accusing Russian hackers to take notice".
Wheeler, who had been working for the Riches pro bono, was interviewed by WTTG-TV, the Fox network's owned and operated station in Washington, D.C., where he suggested there was proof of the WikiLeaks connection. The Rich family previously demanded an apology but did not receive one. The underlying suggestion of this claim, which has always been a popular right-wing theory, is that Rich could have been murdered for leaking that information.
Wheeler's contract with the Rich family prohibited him from speaking to the press without prior approval from the family, a clause he apparently violated when he spoke to Fox 5 D.C. Monday for a story that quickly went viral on the right.
The federal investigator, who requested to remain anonymous, said that sometime before May 21st, 2016, Rich transferred 44,053 emails, and 17,761 attachments belonging to DNC leaders. Wheeler also claimed it was "confirmed" that Rich had links to WikiLeaks.
And a former law enforcement official with first-hand knowledge of Rich's laptop said the claim was incorrect.More news: USA summons Turkey envoy for embassy brawl
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The letter adds that Wheeler was aware of how traumatic Rich's death has been to surviving family members.
Conservative media's exploitation of the Seth Rich murder spurred the family to threaten Wheeler with legal action, saying, "Your statements and actions have caused, and continue to cause, the Family severe mental anguish and emotional distress".
Fox's local Washington, D.C. affiliate ran the story with an interview with Wheeler, despite the fact that Rich's family had asked him not to speak with the media and rejected his findings as not credible.
If true, contacts between Rich and Wikileaks could have disproved claims that Russian Federation was behind the hacking of DNC emails and passing the information onto Wikileaks for publication, in order to harm Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. They say he cared deeply about his work and wanted to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to vote in elections. It was originally reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had conducted a forensic report of Rich's computer, however the Federal Bureau of Investigation is now claiming it's not their case, and they're referring all questions to the D.C. Police.
"Anyone who continues to push this fake news story after it was so thoroughly debunked is proving to the world they have a transparent political agenda or are a sociopath", Brad Bauman, the family spokesperson, wrote in a statement.