In late 2016, many far-right news outlets and conspiracy theorists spread the idea that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich was actually the one who stole the organization’s emails and leaked them to WikiLeaks. To many, this theory would have blown up the claim that Russia had hacked the DNC in an effort to have Trump win the election, and they built a theory that Rich may have been killed by Democrats in retribution.
The final Russia report sheds new lights on the origins of this theory, noting that WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange made false statements about Seth Rich in order to make it appear that he had a role in stealing the emails. As the Washington Examiner reported, the redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller noted that Assange “made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing.”
Assange had dropped hints in 2016 that Seth Rich was a source for him, and the organization offered a $20,000 reward for information that led to a conviction for his murderer. Rich had been shot to death in July 2016 while he was walking at close to 4 a.m. in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood. Police said the shooting was a robbery gone wrong, as the neighborhood had been plagued by a spate of armed robberies and another group of people had been robbed at gunpoint and pistol whipped just hours before Rich was killed in the same neighborhood.
The Mueller report noted that the Russian intelligence agency GRU stole the Democratic emails and used online fronts — DCLeaks and Guccier 2.0 — to distribute them through WikiLeaks.
Members of Seth Rich’s family had decried the political conspiracy theories that were perpetuated after his death, and have even pushed back against news outlets that pushed them. That includes Fox News, which published a story suggesting that there was evidence Seth Rich had leaked the emails to WikiLeaks. As The Daily Beast noted, Fox News later retracted the story as the source disavowed the claims that the DNC staffer stole the emails.
As the Washington Examiner noted, Julian Assange had long denied that Russia was the source of the emails stolen from the DNC and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair. Assange has since been arrested in London and faces charges in the United States for his alleged role in stealing military records in 2010, but does not face charges related to the theft of Democratic emails in 2016.