Donald Trump implicated in making the decision to use the Seth Rich conspiracy theory in order to divert attention from the Russia investigation

In time, every lie of the Trump administration will unravel, and the truth will be known. It’s just a matter of time.

Today, thanks to a lawsuit that was just filed against Fox News on behalf of former D.C. homicide detective Rod Wheeler, we’re finally beginning to understand just how it was that, in the days immediately after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Fox News and other conservative media outlets came to revisit the unsolved murder of Democratic National Committee (DNC) aide Seth Rich, suggesting that new evidence had surfaced which proved that Rich, and not the Russians, had hacked the DNC, sending the private emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and others to Wikileaks. [Wheeler had been hired to find evidence that Rich had been the source of the DNC emails which had been sent to Wikileaks during the campaign.] Well, today, thanks to Wheeler’s court filing, which has apparently been obtained by National Public Radio, we know quite a bit more about how all of this came to pass, and to what extent the Trump administration was involved.

According to Wheeler, who had, for the past 11 years, been a paid commentator on Fox News, the network made up quotes attributed to him, like this one seen here in the May 16 story authored by Malia Zimmerman. [This report, as you may recall, was retracted shortly after publication, in part due to the fact that Rich’s parents had threatened legal action in response.] As for why the story ran in the first place, Douglas Wigdor, Wheeler’s lawyer, maintains that it was an attempt to distract from the ever-widening Russia investigation. “Rod Wheeler,” Wigdor told reporters, “unfortunately was used as a pawn by Ed Butowsky, Fox News and the Trump administration to try and steer away the attention that was being given about the Russian hacking of the DNC emails.”

When Wigdor said in the above quote that Wheeler had been used by “Ed Butowsky,” he’s referring to Dallas investor Ed Butowsky, who, it would seem, was the Trump supporter behind this particular disinformation campaign. Here, for those of you who have never seen or heard of Butowsky before, is a bit of audio that Wheeler apparently had the foresight to record. In it, you can hear Butowsky telling Wheeler that the White House is onboard with the plan to politicize the Rich murder. Butowsky, in a subsequent text, would apparently tell Wheeler, “Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you.”

[above: On May 14, approximately 36 hours before the “bombshell” story is posted on the Fox News site, Butowsky leaves a voicemail for Wheeler, saying, “We have the full, uh, attention of the White House on this. And tomorrow, let’s close this deal, whatever we’ve got to do.”]

Here, from CNN, is some of what we’ve been able to piece together thus far as to how all of this went down.

April 20, 2017: Butowsky and Wheeler meet with White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Wheeler says in his complaint that they provided the press secretary with a summary of Wheeler’s investigation’s finding to date.

May 14, 2017: Butowsky tells Wheeler that President Trump has read the Zimmerman story and wants it published immediately, according to Wheeler’s lawsuit. Butowsky has said his note to Wheeler was a friendly joke.

May 15, 2017 : Butowsky sends an email to a variety of on-air talent and off-air producers for Fox News letting them know the Zimmerman story is about to post, according to Wheeler’s complaint. “One of the big conclusions we need to draw from this is that the Russians did not hack our computer systems and steal emails and there was no collusion like Trump with the Russians,” he writes. It’s not clear who, if anyone, read or used this email at Fox News.

May 16, 2017: The Zimmerman story is published on Fox News’ website. In it, Wheeler is quoted as saying “my investigation up to this point shows that there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.” Wheeler is also quoted as saying that someone within the DC government or the DNC is blocking the investigation into the Rich murder from going forward. Wheeler almost immediately begins to backtrack. In the lawsuit, he insists the quotes attributed to him were fabricated.

May 16, 2017: Spicer is asked about the story in the White House daily press briefing. “I don’t — I’m not aware of — generally, I don’t get updates on DNC — former DNC staffers,” he says. “I’m not aware of that.”

May 21, 2017: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich picks up on the report in an interview with “Fox & Friends.” “It turns out, it wasn’t the Russians,” says Gingrich. “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 investigate his murder.” Gingrich is one of a number of conservative commentators who spread the story; Hannity and Breitbart News also play the story up as confirmation that the Russian meddling narrative was a ruse and that the hacking was an inside job.

May 23, 2017: Fox News retracts the Zimmerman story. “The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting,” reads a statement on the Fox website. “Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed.” Fox News says it’s still investigating internally and has no evidence that Wheeler was misquoted.

May 23, 2017: The parents of Rich write a piece in the Washington Post headlined: “We’re Seth Rich’s parents. Stop politicizing our son’s murder.” In it, they write: “Law-enforcement officials told us that Seth’s murder looked like a botched robbery attempt in which the assailants — after shooting our son — panicked, immediately ran and abandoned Seth’s personal belongings. We have seen no evidence, by any person at any time, that Seth’s murder had any connection to his job at the Democratic National Committee or his life in politics. Anyone who claims to have such evidence is either concealing it from us or lying.” They also note that their son’s personal email and computer were searched by police and “revealed no evidence of any communications with anyone at WikiLeaks or anyone associated with WikiLeaks.”

And, yes, you read that right. Spicer has confirmed that, despite what he said during the press conference about not knowing anything about the Rich story, he’d been in the loop from the start. As for whether or not Butowsky was really just kidding when he said that Trump had read the piece and signed off, I guess we’ll have to wait and see what comes out during the court case, assuming Fox doesn’t just settle to make it go away. [We’re told that Wigdor would like to depose both President Trump and Sean Spicer.]

Also, it’s apparently not just voicemails that Wheeler kept, but texts as well. According to NPR, Butowsky coached Wheeler by way of text on what he should say once he was on the air, discussing his investigation. “[T]he narrative in the interviews you might use is that you and [Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman’s] work prove that the Russians didn’t hack into the DNC and steal the emails and impact our elections,” he apparently texted. In another text, Butowsky wrote: “If you can, try to highlight this puts the Russian hacking story to rest.”

So, yeah, Comey was fired on May 9, and this story, which everyone apparently knew was total bullshit, was fast-tracked for release just a few days later, with Fox hosts like Sean Hannity promising a “bombshell” that would upend the Democratic narrative about Russian hacking, and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Just to recap, a few days ago we learned that Donald Trump had personally been involved in misleading the American people concerning the meeting between his senior campaign officials and a Russian delegation including both a hacker and a money launderer. And, today, we have good reason to suspect that our President knowingly conspired with Fox News to knowingly spread lies in order to distract attention from Russia’s role in hacking our 2016 election… One can only imagine what the rest of the week will hold.

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  1. Meta
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Wheeler is trying to distance himself from this mess before the lawsuits start. As the Daily Caller reminds us today, Wheeler stood by these quotes of his the day after the story ran.

    “In fact, when Mr. Wheeler was interviewed by a Fox affiliate on the evening of May 15, 2017, he made sure not to confirm as fact the proposition that Seth Rich sent emails to WikiLeaks, instead confirming only that a ‘source’ (i.e., [Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman’s] and Butowsky’s alleged source) had information that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks,” the lawsuit states.

    However, the transcript of the interview by Fox 5 shows he identifies multiple sources as his own and that it is “confirmed” due to these sources.

    FOX 5 DC: “You have sources at the FBI saying that there is information…”

    WHEELER: “For sure…”

    FOX 5 DC: “…that could link Seth Rich to WikiLeaks?”

    WHEELER: “Absolutely. Yeah. That’s confirmed.”

    The following night Wheeler makes an appearance on Fox News’s “Hannity” in which he vouched for the credibility of his sourcing.

    Read more:

  2. Kit
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Whether or not Wheeler is telling the truth about his quotes having been manufactured, we now know that the White House was intimately involved in the decision to push this story in an attempt to offer a second narrative as to how the DNC emails made their way to Wikileaks.

  3. Joe M.
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    White House involvement doesn’t mean Trump involvement. You can call it splitting hairs, but until there’s some real dirt shown to be on Trump’s hands directly, I’m not getting overly excited re: impeachment.

    Yes, it’s still absolutely disgusting and great that there’s more and more smoke surrounding the administration, but we still need hard proof of the fire.

  4. M
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    From the CNN piece above:

    “Butowsky tells Wheeler that President Trump has read the Zimmerman story and wants it published immediately, according to Wheeler’s lawsuit. “

  5. M
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    From the NPR coverage linked to above:

    “Butowsky also texted Wheeler: ‘Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you.'”

  6. Dirtgrain
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Your coverage of all this has been superb. Thank you.

  7. Dan Blakeney
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Thank You Mark.

  8. site admin
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    The best way to say thank you is to share this stuff.

  9. Eel
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    EOS, where are you?

  10. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Rod Wheeler: Aaron Rich forbids him talking to anyone about emails and much more.

  11. EOS
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    The only clear evidence we have of collusion that occurred in the last presidential election is contained in the 30,000 emails that Clinton tried to destroy. The Clinton campaign colluded to deny Bernie a fair election. Everything else is merely tactics used to divert attention away from this. There is no evidence to date that Trump conspired with any Russian to steal the election. The intelligence agencies stated that they believe Russian operatives hacked her email. This does not preclude the possibility that a large number of others did as well, or that an insider to the campaign gave the documents to Assange. Assange himself has repeatedly stated that he did not get the emails from the Russian government or anyone associated with the Russian government. Huma emailed many of the texts using a yahoo account and printed them from her husband’s laptop. There are legitimate reasons why confidential information should be kept on government secured servers.

    Fox News did not break the story about a Seth Rich connection. It was widely discussed on a number of right wing sites long before Hannity mentioned it. It may be true, but hasn’t been proven or disproven to date.

    Now there will be a grand jury. If the grand jury looking into these emails does not supena Clinton, Comey, Lynch, Huma, Podesta, DWS, and others associated with the clearly illegal activities of the Democrats, there will be a national outrage.

    Trump has been accomplishing a great deal of good in spite of all the leaks and resistance.

  12. EOS
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    If the grand jury wants to investigate how Russians attempted to influence our politics, they will need to look into the paid speeches of the Clintons, and the deal Hillary made to sell a substantial amount of uranium to the Russians, and the donations of Russian companies to the Clinton foundation.

    Trump won because Hillary was so corrupt. Every day I wake up and thank God that Hillary isn’t president.

  13. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Seymour Hersh audio and transcript: Rich provided wikileaks with emails, Dems invented Russian collusion.‘russiagate’-cia-planted-lie-revenge-against-trump

    Told you you guys are screwed. You can’t believe it just like you couldn’t believe Trump winning. Your narrative is a lie.

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Hersh is backtracking fast on his story:

    “Butowsky emails Hersh: “I am curious why you haven’t approached the house committee telling them what you were read by your FBI friend related to Seth Rich that you in turn read to me. Based on all your work, it appears that you care about the truth. Even though, as you said you couldn’t get a second, shouldn’t you tell them so they could use their powers to determine the truth?”

    In a bizarre response completely contradicting what Hersh is heard saying on the audio recording, he denies having any inside knowledge of the case.

    Hersh responds: “ed –you have a lousy memory…i was not read anything by my fbi friend..i have no firsthand information and i really wish you would stop telling others information that you think i have…please stop relaying information that you do not have right…and that i have no reason to believe is accurate…”

    Desperate to find the truth about what happened, Butowsky continues to plead with the journalist to go forward.

    Butowsky replies: “I know it isn’t first hand knowledge but you clearly said, my memory is perfect, that you had a friend at the FBI who read / told you what was in the file on Seth Rich and I wonder why you aren’t helping your country and sharing that information on who it was?”

    When contacted on the phone by Big League Politics Editor-in-Chief Patrick Howley to inquire about his story abruptly changing, Hersh stated, “I’m not going to comment about that stuff, I mean, come on, I live in the real world.”

    When asked to confirm that it was him speaking on the bombshell audio recording, he stated, “I’m not going to talk to anybody about that. No comment.”

    Not sure what to make of any of this. Hersh is increasingly a blowhard. I have respected himin the past, but he seems to have gone round the bend a bit. Rod Wheeler seems questionable at best as a source for anything:
    [“Tell me what’s going on,” O’Reilly said.

    Wheeler, a Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department officer-turned-paid Fox News commentator, launched right in: “Well, you know, there is this national underground network, if you will, Bill, of women that’s lesbians and also some men groups that’s actually recruiting kids as young as 10 years old in a lot of the schools in the communities all across the country,” he reported. “And they actually carry a number of weapons. And they commit a number of crimes.”

    Wheeler asserted that “we’ve actually counted, just in the Washington, D.C., area alone, that’s Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, well over 150 of these crews. … And they — like I said, they recruit these kids to be members of these gangs.”

    O’Reilly asked, “Now, when they recruit the kids, are they indoctrinating them into homosexuality?”

    “Yes,” Wheeler answered. “As a matter of fact, some of the kids have actually reported that they were forced into, you know, performing sex acts and doing sex acts with some of these people.”]

  15. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    He knows what could happen to him. Everyone in Washington knows.

  16. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    You fuck with the Clintons and you are fucking with your life.

  17. Anonymous
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Speaking of distractions, it looks like McMaster has said that Susan Rice did nothing wrong, putting an end to the whole fake “unmasking” controversy.

  18. M
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 7:15 am | Permalink


    Interestingly, conservative columnist Bill Kristol posted the following earlier this morning.

    “Russian propaganda is engaged in a fierce assault on McMaster.”

    It looks like they want him gone.

    We can’t, after all, afford to have the threat of sanity in the White House.

  19. Jean Henry
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    EOS: “Trump has been accomplishing a great deal of good in spite of all the leaks and resistance.”

    Check out the Newsweek cover for a hoot. I have never seen a president so derided , not even Nixon.

    They must be afraid of the Clintons…

  20. Eel
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    If he were smart, we’d be sunk.

  21. Jean Henry
    Posted August 5, 2017 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Could Fox News be held accountable in any way for aiding and abetting a cover up by the White House?

  22. EOS
    Posted October 5, 2017 at 5:21 am | Permalink

  23. Eel
    Posted July 11, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    The Seth Rich truthers are out in force, and huddled around a speaker phone. (Hilarious thread.)

  24. only the best people
    Posted December 3, 2018 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    A great story for those of you following the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

    Washington Post: “Ex-Marine admits he lured Seth Rich conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman to a hotel parking garage, then shot him”

  25. Posted November 24, 2020 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

  26. Lynne
    Posted November 25, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Good. It was disgusting the way those guys were using his death to spread their lies!

  27. Posted November 25, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    His murder will just be another unsolved murder. Despite all the money power and prestige we give the police, they are just as incompetent as The Leader. I don’t know current statistics, but in 2018 40% of all murders went unsolved. This is also pretty old, but has probably not changed much, “The study revealed that 16% of murder victims were members of the defendant’ s family. 64% were killed by friends or acquaintances while only 20% were killed by strangers.”
    So “stranger” murders are hardly ever solved, and even when the murderer is a loved one, you stand a decent chance of getting away with it.
    Police performance when it comes to property crimes are just as bad. It is pretty obvious that TV is not a reflection of reality, but rather a non-stop propaganda tool for an incompetent system which primary purpose is intimidation and control.
    I guess we will never know why Seth was murdered.
    I had a cousin who was murdered–decades ago now. Thrown down a mine shaft. They didn’t find the body for years, the perpetrators got away scot free–police in my life have been pretty worthless.

  28. Bob
    Posted November 25, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I wanna hear about the time John Barr jr did in jail. What was it for exactly, Warlord? Is this the source of your obsession with alleged criminals and guys who look like they should be in hip hop groups? Personally I’ve never been arrested for anything. I’m betting most people here haven’t been.

  29. iRobert
    Posted November 25, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I think it was for drunk driving up north.

    BREAKING: NewsMax calls MI, PA and NV for Biden!

    Haha. They’re really on the ball.

    By the way, Trump just cancelled his trip to Pennsylvania where he was planning to attend the phony hearing on election fraud. What a wuss.

  30. iRobert
    Posted November 25, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    By the way, John Barr, Jr., the son of the Ypsilanti City Attorney, posted on Facebook suggesting there is some sort of humor in the possibility of Biden being assassinated. Does the Ypsilanti City Attorney think the prospect of the president being assassinated is something humorous? Can someone in Ypsi ask him for me?

  31. Bob
    Posted November 25, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    But, but, but… ANTIFA!! The storm is coming and there will be pizza.

  32. Bob
    Posted November 25, 2020 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Drunk driving is way worse than voter fraud by the way. Fucking turdlord.

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