Donald Trump’s former campaign manager is headed to prison for decades, his personal lawyer just pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations at Trump’s own demand, and the far-right fringes of the internet are buzzing — about Seth Rich.
In one of the most damaging weeks for the president, the conspiratorial corners of the internet are instead dredging up the baseless accusation that someone at the Democratic National Committee was behind the still-unsolved slaying of the DNC staffer in the summer of 2016. Though police in Washington, D.C., have said that Rich died in a botched robbery in a neighborhood that had a spate of armed robberies, there have been a number of far-right websites claiming that he was actually killed for leaking the DNC’s emails to WikiLeaks (despite consensus that these were actually stolen by Russian hackers).
The latest delve into the Seth Rich conspiracy comes from blogger Matt Couch, who has claimed former interim DNC head Donna Brazile and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Browser rushed to the hospital in the early morning hours after Rich had been shot — implying that they had inside knowledge of his shooting. Couch did not name a source for his claim, and the Daily Dot noted that Couch has a long history of making claims in the Seth Rich case that haven’t turned out to be true.
Despite the lack of sourcing on his claim and some major inconsistencies (Brazile was not the head of the DNC at the time Rich was shot, and was on the other side of the country at a fundraiser in Washington State at the time Couch claimed she was in a D.C. hospital), the story has gained major traction among the far-right fringe.
Couch’s claims were not the only dip into the Seth Rich conspiracy theory this week. Christine Assange, the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, also tweeted what appeared to be a claim that Rich leaked the DNC emails to the organization. Though the tweet was deleted, it gained the attention of conspiracy theorist sites like Zero Hedge.
— Oh boy what a shot (@ohboywhatashot) August 21, 2018
In the years since his murder, the story has been resurrected a number of times, often when there is a spate of bad news for Donald Trump. Last year, a report from Fox News claimed that a private investigator found that Rich had been in contact with Wikileaks. This report came amid a series of damaging reports about Trump’s involvement in the Russia probe, including a report that he pushed back against the FBI’s collusion investigation after it was revealed by then-FBI Director James Comey.
Fox News would soon retract the story after the private investigator pushed back, saying he had never made such a claim.
The latest resurrection of the Seth Rich story has prompted a response from Donna Brazile. As the Daily Dot noted, her lawyer sent Matt Couch a cease and desist letter saying he made “false and defamatory statements in an attempt to further conspiracy theories and persuade your readers to believe that Ms. Brazile intervened in and/or influenced the investigation into Seth Rich’s murder.”