Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet (2022) s01e02 Episode Script

A Murder in D.C.

The night of July 10th, 2016,
Seth Rich is at Lou's City Bar,
a place in the Columbia Heights
neighborhood of Washington, D.

It's a sports bar.
He's a frequent there.

They know him by name.

They know how he likes his buffalo wings.

The whole deal.

He leaves in the early morning hours.

And then takes a
somewhat circuitous walk back home.

He tries to reach his father.


He speaks to his girlfriend.

Once for almost exactly
an hour and a half.

Another time for about
three-quarters of an hour.

At the end of the second call,
she hears some sound that concerns her.

And he says, "Don't worry.
I'll be fine.
And gets off the phone.

Then about 4:20 in the morning,
Seth Rich is shot in the back twice.

There appears to have been
some kind of significant scuffle.

He has bruising
on his face and his wrists.

Security cameras nearby
don't capture who did this to him,
but they show you legs
essentially scuttling away.

That was the beginning of this story,
which has since
spiraled way out of control.

The murder of Seth Rich
- Seth Rich
- Shot in the back.
Left for dead.

Mary and I had gone out to breakfast.

We came back,
and there was a note on the front door,
"Call D.
He didn't want to give us
any real information.

And then I asked him,
"Is this really bad?"
And he said, "Yes.
And I said, "How bad?"
And he says,
"Your son was murdered last night.
I believe I probably ran
Dropped to the floor.

it made no sense.

It made no sense.

Why would anybody shoot my son?
Excuse me.

I think my life ended right there.

A sense emerges
from the Metropolitan Police Department
that it was a robbery gone wrong.

We are aware of the robberies
from that particular area.

And we are looking to commonalities
uh, with the robberies and our case.

This neighborhood had
a fair degree of crime over the years
and it actually had homicides there
within the previous year or so.

There had been shootings there.

He's from Nebraska.

He came to Washington
to get involved in politics.

He wanted to make the world
a a better place.

He was murdered about
a block and a half from his home.

This was a pretty big local story.

You have a young man who is working
for the Democratic National Committee
during a presidential election year.

In July 2016,
the presidential election
was getting really heated and nasty.

It's not hard to imagine Donald Trump
leading us into a war
just because somebody
got under his very thin skin.

Hillary Clinton is a weak person.

Hillary Clinton is totally scripted.

Hillary Clinton is a thief.

We have received
more votes from people under 30
than Hillary Clinton
and Donald Trump combined.

Due to Seth's links to the DNC,
people almost immediately
started speculating
that he was killed for political reasons.

Our little guy
with the haircut that never quit.

And the Goofy slippers.

And the Goofy slippers.

He walked out with those.

Tell me about Seth.

Where did he grow up and what was he like?
Well, he grew up in Omaha, Nebraska.

He loved to joke.

He loved to make people laugh.

He felt that was an excellent way
to start communication.

In, like, eighth grade,
he was taking some speech classes
and maybe some starting debate.

That continued strongly in high school,
where he would watch
C-SPAN for fun, which is
- In high school?
- In high school.

At a very, very young age,
he could tell me every congressperson,
every senator, every governor,
what they stood for,
what the policies were.

His whole heart and soul
was into voter registration
and getting the registration right.

How do we get better access to data
that tells us why ballots are rejected,
why ballots are cast as provisional,
so that we can
For him, every person should vote.

That was part of his heart.

If you could name an all-American kid,
it would be him.

I was covering politics and crime
for a local alt-weekly
and so initially we saw
the Seth Rich story
as a straight-up murder
that was mysterious, that was unsolved.

And then as I was also consuming
sort of as my side job
writing about right-wing media,
I was going on forums
like thedonald
and stuff like that and I was seeing
all these mentions of Seth Rich.

And I thought, you know, "Oh, the guy
from the the botched robbery?"
Conspiracy theories
tend to pick up in traumatic moments.

When there's something
that is difficult to explain
or difficult to come
to emotional terms with.

People are susceptible
to conspiracy theories
because we naturally,
as primates, look for patterns.

We look for recurring signs
that help us explain things
that are happening in the world.

The Democrats
have all these emails released
and it shows that the DNC
had not played exactly neutral
between Bernie Sanders'
more insurgent campaign
and Hillary Clinton's
more establishment campaign.

As the Democrats
get ready to start their convention,
leaked emails from
the Democratic National Committee
now show that Sanders
may have been right all along
when he claimed the party
had its thumb on the scale for Clinton.

WikiLeaks, the Internet watchdog group,
leaked 20,000 emails from seven
top DNC officials during primary season.

There were also a lot
of other emails that got out there.

Emails about trading recipes.

Just personal jokes and things.

In the days after Seth Rich's death,
there is an SVR bulletin.

The SVR is essentially
a Russian intelligence outfit.

It has put out a bulletin,
essentially fraudulently,
as though it believes
that Seth Rich was going to meet
in those very early morning hours
of July 10th, 2016,
with FBI agents.

But it turned out
that the FBI agents were paid killers.

And it looked like those killers
might in some way
be associated with Hillary Clinton.

That's the claim.

And then it appears almost simultaneously
on WhatDoesItMean.

This website,
com, posted this bulletin
that was put out by
Russian foreign intelligence.

The guy who founded
the WhatDoesItMean.
com website
was sort of semi-infamous
for having tried to hijack a plane
when he was like 14 years old.

And then gained some notoriety
for having a dream about another plane
crashing in very specific terms.

Everybody talks about a dream but
And, everybody has dreams
I didn't have a dream, I had a vision.

A few days later,
there was a plane crash that very closely
resembled what he had dreamt about.

So he was, like, all over TV
as, like, the psychic
who could predict these terrible events.

And he sort of laundered that then
into this website
very much focused on
elevating different conspiracies
and a long history of seeming ties
to Russian intelligence sources.

He posted a reference
to the trove of emails that Russia had
before this was broadly public knowledge.

His site served as a
clearing house for Russian disinformation
as they were flooding him
with things to put out.

These claims start to metastasize
and they particularly grow wild
at 4chan and subreddits.

In the aftermath of Seth Rich's death,
this idea that he was murdered by
the Clintons or some sort of cabal
is really still sort of bubbling
on the fringes of the right wing.

It hasn't been embraced in a major way.

And then Julian Assange of WikiLeaks
goes on a Dutch TV show.

Whistleblowers go to significant efforts
to get us material
and often very significant risks.

There's a 27-year-old
that works for the DNC
who was shot in the back,
murdered, just two weeks ago,
uh, for unknown reasons,
as he was walking
down the street in Washington.
That was just a robbery,
I believe, wasn't it?
There's no finding.

So, that's the sort of
What are you suggesting?
I am suggesting
that our sources, uh, take risks,
and they are
they become concerned,
to see things occurring like that.

But was he one of
your sources then? I mean
We don't comment on
who our sources are but
Then why make the suggestion?
About a young guy being shot
in the streets of Washington?
Because we have to understand,
how high the stakes are
in the United States.

Julian Assange is very cagey about it,
but the implication is that Seth Rich
was a source for WikiLeaks.

At 10:15 in the morning,
I get a call from
a Washington Post reporter,
saying WikiLeaks
has just offered a $20,000 reward
for information about Seth's death.

"What are your comments?"
And it's like, "No comment.
There are rumors swirling
all over the place as to why WikiLeaks
would have an interest
in this murder case.

Our sources face serious risks,
that's why they come to us,
so we can protect their anonymity.

But it's quite something
to suggest a murder.

That's basically what you're doing.

This is laying the groundwork
for people to say that Seth Rich
was involved in the leak of these emails.

We know now that that's completely untrue,
and yet in the final months
of the presidential campaign,
that narrative spread very fast.

As one example,
there's a Tennessee GOP Twitter account
that purports to represent Republicans
in the Volunteer State.

It's actually run by folks
on behalf of the Russians.

And it is sowing
as much discord towards Democrats,
towards Hillary Clinton in particular,
as possible,
and it seizes on these allegations
that somehow Seth knew,
that he had a meeting with the FBI,
'cause he was a tortured conscience
and wanted to reveal dark truths
about the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.

The Clintons
were blaming all that on Russia,
and it was somehow some Russia conspiracy,
they were trying to get Trump in,
these kinds of things.

Julian Assange on with Danish television,
perhaps saying, "Not so quick.
It breaks
before the start of the convention.

- Think it's gonna have impact?
- I think it's already had.

We haven't even started this convention
and we're already
enmeshed in conflict and chaos.

Party Chairwoman,
Debbie Wasserman Schultz,
resigning after WikiLeaks
released thousands
of internal
Democratic National Committee emails.

This is the kind of tension
that the party was hoping to avoid here.

Feel the Bern! Feel the Bern!
It's useful to those
who would disrupt Clinton's campaign
for it to happen at this time.

But in fact, Assange receives
these huge tranche of emails
four days after Seth Rich's death.

The timing doesn't align.

The man's dead.

Some of the leaked emails at one point
were modified to have their dates changed
in a way that was more consistent
with Seth Rich's death,
implying that they were leaked
about five days before he was killed.

I promised my son
I would find his murderers.

And the best time to do that is immediate.

We need more help.

Somebody knows something,
and hopefully with the $125,000 reward,
it will allow, you know,
someone to come forward to give us some
to give some information to the police.

And that reward
does not include this WikiLeaks
- It includes a reward we can validate.

- No.

This includes the police 25,000
and the graciousness of Jack, 100,000.


I can tell you this will never go
into the cold-case file,
at least as not as long as I'm alive.

When I saw the story about Seth,
the heartbreaking story,
all I could think of was my mother
getting the call that Mary Rich got.

Jack Burkman is
a truly bizarre character in Washington.

He's a very publicity-hungry lobbyist,
who is ostensibly conservative,
but seems to be willing
to sort of attach himself
to any cause that will get him publicity.

Before this, he'd jumped on a cause.

He had attempted to get gay players
banned from the NFL
because that was in the news.

And then he sees in
the Seth Rich case, I believe,
a chance for more publicity for himself.

Conspiracy entrepreneurs
are people who take a tragedy
and use it for their own gain.

These are people who will promote
a false narrative, often knowingly,
because they know that
they can get money and attention from it.

Jack Burkman probably does fit
into this schema of people
who rush to the scene of a disaster
and promote themselves as the authority
and work to subvert the truth
around that event.

No, I actually have one here.

Rickety old chair.

So why did you decide to get
involved in the Seth Rich case at all?
Like I said,
I really took a liking to Seth.

I felt he was a great and noble guy.

Everybody said wonderful things
as we checked in,
everybody said on both sides of the aisle
many great things about him.

That's one of the reasons I got involved.

This is a strange crime in that there
exists currently no theory of the case.

I'd been a lawyer
for two and a half decades
What about "robbery"?
Well, I don't know that
I don't think I frankly
I don't believe
there's much evidence of a robbery.

Thank you, everyone.
Thank you.

No, it definitely wasn't a robbery.

The D.
police seemed to suggest that,
but that's just plain wrong.

My friend.
Do you have a second?
Sorry to bother you.

We're just trying to find out who did it.

He worked for
the Democratic National Committee.

It became very, very clear
that what Jack was actually interested in
was to be a central figure
in the narrative around the murder.

He wanted the spotlight.

A group of
George Washington University grad students
they have spent the past
few months probing into Rich's death.

GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman,
who put up $105,000 of his own money
as a reward to help solve the murder,
is also funding The Profiling Project.

These folks are gonna become profilers.

They're gonna become
lead investigative agents.

We're trying to figure out
persons of interest
and any areas
that the police may have overlooked.

We were approached by a number of people.

I had a guy who claimed
to be former CIA and I think he was.

He claimed that he had been approached
by someone who claimed
that the Russians killed Seth.

In early '17,
we reported that to the news.

- Break down
- Sounds like a spy novel.

Yes, exactly.

It does.
I wish I had
It's kind of a morbid subject,
but it's a hopeful subject
because finally some progress,
and it's my job
to bring closure to the family.

That's what I'm trying to do.

You get a lot
of crank calls in this type of role.

I've done this sort of stuff before.

It's just part of the job.

But I think I have
something credible here.

Was approached by a guy who styles himself
as a former US intel officer.

Uh, I quizzed him.
I think he's credible.

You never know motive of people,
but what he said is basically this,
that Seth discovered that
the Russians had been hacking,
and therefore the Russian government
did away with Seth.

At every turn,
he would take over
the media narrative from the parents
in ways that were very unhelpful.

And it became very, very clear that
he was doing much more harm
to both the parents,
as well as Seth's legacy.

We are a simple family in Omaha, Nebraska.

What the hell
is all this crap coming at us?
We had agreed that
everything he was going to say or do
would come through us,
because we are only going to be honest.

We're not gonna play a game.

This is my son's life.

I don't think
the Rich family liked I did that,
but that was my commitment to put out
each and everything that came to us.

That was just a tidbit that came to us,
so we put it out there.

Whether that's true or not, I don't know.

Well, it was true enough
for you to put it out there.

What evidence did you have?
Was there any evidence
to support that statement?
The only evidence
was I found the guy credible.

Why would the Russians
want to kill Seth Rich?
I don't know.
I really don't know.

You could probably find
a hundred different theories about that.

I'll be very honest.

I don't want to jump ahead,
but we investigated this.

As you know,
we put out an 80-page document
from The Profiling Project.

The guy who authored it,
he did a good job.

Turned out he was a little nuts.

That's another story.

Kevin Doherty, he actually shot me.

You may know this.

Two years after that, he shot me.

He turned out to be a little nuts
You got shot in the butt
and, like, it didn't
I currently have
three and a half bullets in me.

One in each butt cheek, one in the leg,
and another fragment of a bullet.

Doherty uncovered a report
that there had been an FBI truck
robbed of ammunition and certain weapons
about 60 minutes before Seth was shot.

And it was in the same vicinity,
within a half mile radius of that.

I felt that this was something
that should be put out there.

For some strange reason,
Doherty didn't want that out there.

I said,
"Well, Kevin, look, I respect you.
"You're a great professional,
but I have to make the final
decision here.
That changed the relationship
between me and Kevin Doherty.

This guy, who'd once been our star,
all of a sudden had deteriorated mentally.

We had words one day, nothing too serious.

But then he went away.

So I started getting emails
on Proton email,
I should've been suspicious.

Turned out to be Kevin Doherty,
but he was masquerading
as some guy in the FBI, um
A fake name.
Brian Brian actually!
Some fake name.
Just a fake name.

He then started giving me documents.

He always left the documents under a cone.

You'd go up a parking garage.

Go through the restaurant area, go up
the garage, go in, get the cone, leave.

And I bent over to pick the documents up.

Now, little did I know,
Kevin Doherty's sitting over there
with some kind of M1 rifle,
ready to blow my head off.

The only reason I'm here alive today
is because of my little dog,
Jackie the dachshund.

He didn't think it was me,
because I wasn't in a suit.

I was all messed up,
and I had the dog pressed to my face.

He pulled the rifle back.

That's the only thing that saved me.

Because what happened next
is he then realized it was me.

I grabbed the documents, hurried out.

By the time he boom-boom-boom,
he hit me in each butt cheek
and twice in the leg.

And then, the dog,
the bullet bounced
and hit the dog in the paw.

And so I'm running down with
the baby.
The baby's bleeding.

I'm bleeding.

He then tries to run me over.

I threw the dog as I was running
because I wanted to save the baby.

I thought I was dead.

I thought 'cause the thing's coming at me.

But lo and behold, at the last minute,
he hits a speed bump.

Pops him up
and slows him down with just enough force
that the only thing he did was just about
destroy the bottom part of my left arm,
which almost fell off.

I'm on the ground, half dead,
run over, shot.

He turned away and ran.
Drove away.

But I think he did, nonetheless
I think he did a fine job
on putting out the report.

A report just issued by
The Profiling Project
says the murder was more likely
committed by a hired killer.

It's a possibility.

A proficient killer is what we think.

As the case falls out of the news,
he starts getting
more and more outrageous.

And so Jack Burkman says,
"We're gonna have
a re-creation of the murder.
What do you guys want?
D-d-did you want something?
You want my wallet? Here, have it.

My phone?
You want my phone too? Have both.

He films this really
Have my watch.

sort of half-cocked, amateur fake murder,
which is not something the family wanted.

Damn amateur.
You exposed us.

I took all the necessary precautions.

They can't trace you to anything.

That was his own and
I have nothing positive to say about that.

What can I do for you, Mr.
I have access to something you might want.

I want to get into
the reenactment of this event,
in which you suggested
that very theory that you just said
you don't have any evidence for.

It's a work of literature
designed to call attention to the issue
with the hope of getting people
out of the woodwork.

Assange, thank you for taking my call.

They'll show that the DNC
is doing everything it can
to guarantee a Hillary nomination.

That they're basically
rigging the primary.

If you never found evidence
that Seth was connected to Assange,
why is there
a whole scene in the reenactment
in which Seth literally talks to Assange?
Reenactments all come
from a certain point of view.

If you didn't do that,
you'd put in something else.

No different than when FX
does The People v.

You gotta pick a point of view.

You could do the O.
from any one of
18 different points of view, right?
I think the assumption is,
from the audience point of view,
that they're at least
basing it on what happened.

Here there's no evidence at all.

There are lies, damned lies,
and then there are statistics.

You're starting to lose traction and time.

What else could I do?
Ed Butowsky
is an investment manager
based outside Dallas.

Someone who
enjoys, uh, shall we say,
edging close to the spotlight.

Butowsky had been sort of
a spokesman for the Republican team
for six or seven years.

They say we've had a lot of jobs growth.

A reliable figure you could turn to
to articulate and identify
Republican talking points on economics.

to offset our deficit.

He worked with
an associate named Ellen Ratner,
who had a small,
sort of talk radio enterprise,
so that he could qualify for
a radio-TV correspondents
press pass for Capitol Hill,
which would allow him
to go around the Capitol.

He reaches out on Facebook and says,
"Hey, does anybody know
Joel and Mary Rich in Omaha, Nebraska?"
And he connects with them.

Then I said to them this.

I said,
"Why don't you hire a private detective?"
And they said,
"We would love to.
We can't afford one.
And you know what, Chris?
You don't know me,
but a lot of people out there do.

You know what I said?
I said, "I'll pay for it.
Most people would say, "No, thank you,
that's We don't know you.
They said, "Yes.
And I said, "Oh.
I had no idea how much
a private detective cost.

I started asking people,
"Who knows anybody
who's a private detective?"
I got recommended Rod Wheeler by somebody.

Fox is a repository
of all kinds of characters
that it keeps on the payroll
to be able to talk at a moment's notice
about all kinds of things,
including one of them is a former D.

homicide cop named Rod Wheeler.

Butowsky gets in touch with him
and Wheeler says, "Sure.
Happy to do it.
Unbeknownst to the Rich family,
Ed Butowsky is talking
to reporters at Fox News,
specifically Malia Zimmerman.

He's saying, "Wow,
we really got this hot story going.
He's saying to Rod Wheeler stuff like,
"Don't make clear to the Riches
you're talking to Malia.
He's working in a way
that I personally have never seen
how closely the reporter
is working with someone
who's effectively the source, Ed Butowsky.

I mean, he's almost
like the press agent for this story.

He's really closely involved
with Malia Zimmerman.

Butowsky wants to prove
that Seth Rich was the person behind
the leaks of the Democratic emails,
and that Seth Rich was murdered,
and that there is a link.

But the, you know, the point of all
He is trying to
backwards-engineer an investigation
that will arrive at
the result he wants.

Rod Wheeler, he started wanting
direct access to the computer.

- Seth's laptop
- Yes.

that everybody's talked about?
The police
had already checked his computer.

The computer had nothing.

Nothing to do with any investigation.

Had nothing to do with DNC,
WikiLeaks, any of that.

We kept saying that.

But Mr.
wouldn't take no for an answer.

Butowsky is casting about,
trying to find people to talk to,
to find evidence.

In December of 2016,
Ed approached my company
about working on a financial investigation
unrelated to Seth Rich.

Ed learned that I was
old friends with Seymour Hersh.

All I did was introduce him
to Ed Butowsky.

I was not part of the phone call.

I wasn't aware of what
the substance of the conversation was.

Sy Hersh is a giant in journalism.

He is a legend and with every reason.

You know, he broke the news
of the My Lai massacre.

Just a terrible atrocity
brought to light by Sy Hersh.

Sy Hersh's reporting on bioweapons:
legendary, and incredibly important.

A skeptical voice of authorities
and with good reason.

I'll tell you what I know.

What I know comes off an FBI report.

Don't ask me how.

You can figure out,
I've been around long enough.

The kid gets
I don't think he was murdered.

I don't think he was murdered
because of what he knew.

The kid's a nice boy, 27.

He was not an IT expert,
but he learned stuff.

He was a data programmer,
but he learned stuff.

When you have a death
like that with D.
if you're dead
you generally don't just go
You have to,
"What's the motive? What's going on?"
Get to the kid's apartment
and see what you can find.

They go in the house
and can't do much with his computer.

His password
The cops don't know much about it.

They call the FBI cyber unit.

The Feds get through
and here's what they find.

This is according to the FBI report.

Sometime in late spring, early summer,
he makes contact with WikiLeaks.

That's in his computer.

He offered a sample, an extensive sample,
you know, I'm sure
dozens of emails and said, "I want money.

Then later,
WikiLeaks did get the password.

He had a Dropbox, a protected Dropbox.

And they got access to the Dropbox.

He also,
and this is also in the FBI report,
he'd also shared this box
with a couple of friends.

"So if anything happens to me,
it's not going to solve your problem.
Butowsky thinks
that this is the holy grail.

Sy Hersh then says, "Please be clear,
all of this may not be true.
You saw a report.
You saw the FBI report?

I've been around a long time
and read a lot of stuff.

I have somebody inside
who will go and read a file for me.

And is there any way
we can get our hands on the report?
- That changes everything.

- I know.
You know
- This particular
- I can't get the report.

But I'm just trying
to get something in my hand
that I can get public about this
Hey, man, listen,
that's not what I'm
No, no.
That's not what, you know
I'm not trying to give you something
to go to the White House with,
that's not what it's about.

And that's okay.

That's okay.
I appreciate you
I just need to know what you know
All right.

because I want
I'm writing something, that's all.

All right.

Maybe that doesn't work.

If it doesn't work, we shouldn't talk.

It's all wrong.

They're talking about
having Seth's computer, the FBI having it,
who had looked at it,
Dropbox accounts,
uh, deposits would have been made, um
And we just know it's all false.

There's-there's not a bit of truth
in anything that he said.

Hersh says to me later,
"Have you ever told a source
something that wasn't quite true
in order to get
information from the source?"
Hersh thought that Butowsky was going
to be a source of information for him,
and was dangling things
or supposed knowledge
in front of him to try to elicit.

He was a fisherman using bait.

I don't think it was wise,
but Hersh always said to me as well
in our conversations,
"Always judge me by what I publish.

Not what I do before I publish.
Seymour Hersh
did not publish anything about this.

But his involvement in this recording
then becomes cited by blogs
like The Gateway Pundit,
and you can sort of see
the Seth Rich story, conspiracy theory,
it kind of goes from there
and it adds this credibility
that really starts, you know,
gathering momentum.

On April 20th, Sean Spicer,
the White House press secretary,
takes a meeting
with Ed Butowsky and Rod Wheeler.

He meets with Sean Spicer
and he's saying like,
"Y'all gotta get in on this.
"Trump's being
investigated for his Russia ties
and I have the thing that's going to
totally undo that whole investigation.
My conversation with Sean
about this recording
lasted about one minute.

He said, "Ed,
I don't know anything about it.
"I don't want to know anything.

I can't do anything.
And we ended up
talking about other things
Spicer says, "That's crazy.
Spicer tells me, "No.
"They came here, briefed me about
this thing involving this investigation
that they were doing of Seth Rich
and wanted to tell me
where they were at with it.
He's like, "A murder in metropolitan D.
while tragic, has nothing to do with me.
"That's not my problem.

It's not a White House problem.
And that's possibly true.

Sean Spicer, prior to joining Trump,
was a pretty establishment, mainstream,
straight ahead, Republican party partisan.

And not used
to this kind of manufactured crisis.

Ed Butowsky was depicted
in his messages to Rod Wheeler
to be increasing the pressure on him
as the weeks tick by
in the spring of 2017, to say,
"We need to publish this.

The White House needs this.
"We need to show that
the Russia-collusion theories are BS.
"We need this.
It's time to go.

We need to get this.
The pressure is relentless.

Wheeler used to be at
the Metropolitan Police Department,
and his former colleagues there
are not having a ton of luck,
and neither is he.

He talks to an officer
named Joseph Della Camera.

Well, I met face to face
with Della Camera.

He met with me over
at my office down in D.

And, nice guy, we talked a long time,
but he kept telling me
the entire conversation,
"Rod, I can't.

I can't tell you anything.
I can't.
I said, "Why?"
He said, "Well, they want us to not say
anything about this case
and kinda like stand down.
Really? I said, "Who?"
He said, "Come on, man,
I can't tell you any more, you know that.
Wheeler walks away with raw
material for Butowsky to put out later on
that there's some sort
of political heat behind this.

But no evidence to show
of something truly sinister occurring.

He goes back to the neighborhood.

He knocks on doors.

He tries to figure out
what could have happened and gone awry
and there's just not a lot there
for him to work with.

There is an incredible push
from Butowsky and from Zimmerman
to get this thing
ready to publish and do it.

We are two months shy
of the one-year anniversary
of Rich's murder.

Conspiracy theories online
have taken a life of their own,
but today Fox 5
has learned there is new information
that could prove these theorists
are, in fact, right.

New information from
the family's PI suggests
there is tangible evidence
on Seth Rich's laptop
that confirms he was communicating
with WikiLeaks prior to his death.

The family hired Rod Wheeler,
a former MPD homicide detective,
to run a parallel investigation
into their son's death.

Wheeler says
he believes there is a cover-up
and the police department has been told
to back down from the investigation.

Rod Wheeler has contacted
Marina Marraco at Fox 5,
the local Fox affiliate, owned by Fox,
and so the same parent company,
but two different entities.

And so as Malia Zimmerman
is sort of laying the final groundwork
to have this claim that
the FBI had Seth Rich's laptop
and that there's all this
shadowy stuff going on,
Rod Wheeler is telling this
to Marina Marraco.

You have sources at the FBI
saying that there is information
For sure.

that could link
Seth Rich to WikiLeaks?
Yeah, and that's confirmed.

I actually have a source inside
the police department that said,
"Rod, we were told
to stand down in this case,
and I can't share
any information with you.
Now, that's highly unusual
for a murder investigation,
especially from a police department.

Rod Wheeler, the investigator,
assures us at Fox 5
and assures Fox News
that there's a full report
that contains information that will show
how many times Seth Rich
made contact with WikiLeaks
and will show exactly
when this communication took place.

We will be watching.

We will be waiting.
Thank you.

She goes on the air with this.

Well, this sends Fox Digital overnight
into hyperdrive to get this thing out.

Zimmerman just has
to get it out there in public.

And I remember my stomach fell
because I understood at that moment
exactly what had just happened.

Fox News had just reignited
conspiracy theories
around Seth Rich's murder
with a larger megaphone
and with bigger stakes
than anybody had at that point.

Here's Zimmerman and Fox's bombshell.

What she posts in early-morning hours
of May 16, 2017,
is that multiple law enforcement sources
are telling Fox News
that Seth Rich clearly had leaked
thousands of internal emails to WikiLeaks.

If true, proving
the first half of the equation.

That he was the source of these leaks
and raising the specter of the second half
of the fever-swamp equation being true,
that his death was related to that.

That Rich had made contact with WikiLeaks
through Gavin MacFadyen,
a dead investigator and documentary maker
who was involved with WikiLeaks himself
and was living in London.

So these are very specific connections.

And very specific assertions
being made in this story.

They don't allow for a ton of ambiguity.

Then it's part of the bloodstream.

It's being watched
by the White House under Trump.

And it's part
of the national conversation,
given credence and amplification,
and away they go.

Back with a Fox News alert.

A brand-new bombshell in the murder
of that guy right there.
A DNC staffer
There's evidence
that Rich had contact with WikiLeaks.

That evidence on a laptop
belonging to Seth Rich,
showing he was talking with WikiLeaks.

Wheeler says,
"This smells like a cover-up.
The news side of Fox was more
careful about it in their programs on air.

But the opinion sides ran with it.

None of this explains
why the FBI's involved.

- And why, uh
- Right.

There are claims that the D.
were told to stand down.

And that's a claim
that I actually heard myself.

I was just sitting there
in sheer shock of,
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"And where the hell did this come from?"
You are nobody.

You have a life around your kids.

You work every day.

You pay bills.
That's it.

And suddenly,
we are the lead story everywhere.

Now, if true, this could become one of
the biggest scandals in American history.

And could mean that Rich
could have been murdered
under very suspicious circumstances.

And then you see
the "private investigator" of yours,
who's under contract not to talk
talking away about a bunch of lies.

I can't describe that moment
any more than the shock of
missing the couch,
landing on the floor, going
"Am I? I can't be hearing right.
You know, the fellow,
Bauman, who is speaking for the family?
He is a He is connected
to the Democratic party.

I was called a Democratic party hit man.

Accused of taking money from the DNC
in order to explicitly
try to cover up a murder.

The Internet
just went crazy.

Seth Rich was a "good" Democrat
that read all this evil about,
- "- Let's keep people poor, in the dark.

- Let's have race war.
"Let's steal more Haitian money.

We got kids ready for you in the hot tub.
Why would a man,
a leftist, betray his own?
I know there are rumors,
and they're rumors,
there's information in there
about child pedogate, if you will,
pedophile rings, that sort of thing.

We know that it is not past
Podesta or Clinton to do either.

I watched as hundreds
of thousands of messages on Twitter
came through a bot army.

I had my personal information
spread all over 4chan, Reddit, Twitter.

I had people outside of my apartment
who would randomly
take photos of me and run away.

I was receiving calls to my cellphone,
making threats against me.

The bar that Seth visited,
they hounded and made their lives hell.

Uh, his girlfriend,
they threatened and made her life hell.

All of his friends have been threatened.

They went to his house,
threatened to kick down
his roommate's door
because his roommate wouldn't talk to 'em.

They threatened they were coming
with all the people with the guns,
and they were gonna
make people talk and
I take it for real.
I was scared to death.

It was like
watching reality gaslight you,
to the point where you actually
had to turn to these two people
that you trust implicitly
and actually beg the question, like,
"We're sure, right?"
You can never fathom
that something like Fox News
would have put out something
that was so poorly sourced,
so counterfactual,
something that was so false
and filled with such lies,
you have to question
your own sense of reality.

Because your son died,
murdered, shot in the back,
that's hard enough to go through.

But then to have
do that shit to you,
it compounds it, ungodly.

And there's no way to stop shit like that.

I can't take you
through the pain, the torture
the torture that we have gone through.

Today, Rich's parents
wrote in The Washington Post,
"The amount of pain and anguish
this has caused us is unbearable.
"With every conspiratorial flare-up,
we are forced to relive Seth's murder
and a small piece of us dies
as more of Seth's memory
is torn away from us.
A detective who worked on researching
an explosive Fox News story
is today taking the channel to court.

Alleging they defamed him
in a deliberate effort
to help Donald Trump
deny Russia was behind the election hack.

Well, I was asked to get involved
in conducting an investigation,
a murder investigation, of Seth Rich,
and that's why I got involved,
so I could try
to find out who killed this guy.

But halfway through the investigation
and then up until the point
at which this article was released by Fox,
there were these quotes in there from me,
supposedly saying that I knew for a fact
that Seth Rich, the decedent,
had been in contact with WikiLeaks,
emailing them emails.

- That was not true
- Let's pause.

- Fox News, reporting you as the source
- Right.

linking the DNC staffer to this hacking.

- Right.
The reporter.

- That was false?
The reporter from Fox News,
Malia Zimmerman, she wrote that story.

I immediately challenged her,
and I said, "Malia, that's just not true.
"You and I both know this isn't true.
And she said her bosses
told her to leave those quotes in there.

I said, "Why would you leave something
in an article you know is not true?"
And that's why we're here today.

Wheeler's backtracking on what he said.

We're telling him,
"You're in violation
of your contract as our investigator,
so we're trying to get attorneys
to get a cease and desist order in place.
We were able
to start clawing the story back.

This is a complicated story and
We were able to start getting
folks to start asking the right questions.

You know Hersh says
you got his reporting wrong, right?
That he says you took
two and two and made 45 out of it.

Yeah, well, you know what?
Sy Hersh, maybe that's his math,
but the reality is
I'm not saying anything.

Go listen to it, listen to his words.

I'm not concluding anything.

And then ultimately,
we were able to get it retracted.

the Fox News website retracted a story
it had published on Rich's death,
saying it "was not initially subjected
to the high degree of editorial scrutiny
we require, and has since been removed.
The cracks in the Fox News narrative
started to come apart,
and what you were left with was,
"How did this happen?"
"And who put Fox News up to this?"
Then you have
the other part of your complaint,
which is this documentary
evidence and text
that the President of the United States
was personally involved
in reviewing this story before
it was published and pushing it out.

When did you learn about that and
why do you believe that to be the case?

I learned about that from Ed Butowsky.

He's the one that sent me an email,
which I've shown,
I'll show the emails
and I have shown them,
and voicemails,
where he said the president has
reviewed the story and wants it out there.

So, hold on,
what did you think when you got that text?
First of all, I'm thinking,
"Why would the president have to review
a story pertaining to a death
to the murder of a guy in D.
"Why would the president
even be involved in this?"
The suggestion that
the president was aware of this story,
he may have seen it in advance,
that he had a profound interest
in its advancement,
what is your response?
Not true.
I never talked
to anybody at the White House.

I've never talked to President Trump.

President Trump, nor the White House,
has anything to do with any of this.

This was tongue-in-cheek talking.

Just texting.
Wasn't serious.

Can I get a White House reaction
or the president's reaction to the report
that Seth Rich was emailing
WikiLeaks before his murder?
I I don't I'm not aware of
I generally, um, I don't get updates
on former DNC staffers.

I'm not aware of that.

The newly released Mueller Report
says WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange,
falsely implied that Rich
was the source of stolen DNC emails.

The Mueller Report indicates WikiLeaks
used Rich's murder to cover up the fact
that they got the emails from Russia.

WikiLeaks contacted
the Russians privately on Twitter, saying,
"If you have anything Hillary related,
we want it
in the next two days preferable.
Uh, okay, you're on.

Audio speeds.

Okay, so let's just start real broadly.

We flew down to Plano
to interview Mr.

- Right.

- So why are we talking to you?
He's really not supposed
to discuss Seth Rich
or any of those subjects publicly.

So, that's, uh
You know, when his lawyers
talked with him about it,
we obviously had to advise him,
"Nope, don't do that.
Robert Mueller,
in his special counsel report,
said there was no evidence
connecting Seth to the leaks.

But we now know that the FBI
never looked at the DNC's servers.

They relied on CrowdStrike,
a private company, to do the analysis.

So, CrowdStrike
was hired to investigate the email hack
and, at the time, you were actually
one of the few to see the evidence.

So, what are the facts?
What do we actually know
about who hacked the DNC?
Russian SVR is also known as APT29.

There was a very specific technique,
like a fingerprint,
being used by APT29.

The fingerprint was a way of establishing
persistence on a computer system.

So, when you break into a computer system,
if someone shuts it off,
reboots the computer,
turns it off for the night to go to sleep,
you're gonna lose access
to that computer system
if you don't find a way
to restart your malware in the morning
when they wake up
and turn their computer back on.

So it was a very specific way
of maintaining
what in the industry
is called "persistence.
And it was a fingerprint
that if you knew to look for it
and you knew where to look for it,
it was a very easy indicator
to say, "Yup, this is APT29.
And that fingerprint became very key
in uncovering the rest
of the breach at the DNC.

I have no doubt
that they tried to put money
and influence any way they could,
just as we tried to influence
foreign elections in other countries.

CrowdStrike allegedly discovered
that there was Russian intrusion,
but they don't do anything.

I mean, they literally do not
shut down the computers.

Because we know the messages
that were taken and given to WikiLeaks,
the last date of that message is,
I believe, Sunday the 25th of May.

According to CrowdStrike,
they shut down the system
at the DNC on the 10th of June.

What in the hell are these people?
They're incompetent.

Who allows 16 days to go by
when you're quote "being hacked"
by a foreign government, the Russians?
There was a lag
from when they are first notified
to when the bad guys were
effectively kicked out of the network.

I'm not sure exactly why that was.

They maybe didn't think
it was as serious as it was,
you know, in their defense.

The Chinese broke into
the Obama campaign in 2008 and in 2012,
and they didn't leak anything.

The McCain campaign
came under considerable attack as well.

And so nation-states
breaking into political campaigns
wasn't a new thing in 2016.

The only thing novel about what occurred
was how the information was used.

How sure are you that this was APT29?
Uh, because of that fingerprint,
at the time I was 100% sure.

I mean, there was no doubt in my mind.

No one else was doing this at the time.

Now, the reality is,
to convince the public,
you need a lot more.

The guy got fucking murdered
after he leaked information to WikiLeaks.

If you don't think that's a little weird,
what are you looking at?
What delusional rose-colored glasses
are you looking at your party from?
I usually don't even like
adding a little breath of fire
into that conspiracy theory.

I think it's been incredibly damaging.

I can't imagine what
life is like for the family.

Uh, you know,
it's got no technical foundations.

And that's all I really
have to say about that matter.

Everyone in this country's gonna hear
Butowsky sued me
and NPR for my reporting.

And he felt that
I had made his life very difficult,
and that there were
economic harm as a result.

Even with the Mueller Report
and other things,
contradicting claims he was making,
even with Senate Committee,
led by a Republican,
contradicting claims he was making,
he was still arguing
in favor of his interpretation
or his claims of what had happened.

it took exception to what I reported.

It was a surreal lawsuit.

At no time did we hear anybody say,
"Gosh, this is really
gonna hurt the Riches.
"But because of this
incontrovertible truth we have,
we have to find a way
to present this to the public,
the government's
trying to cover it up.
You don't hear it that way.

It's just like,
"The president really wants this.
"We've gotta kill this Russia narrative.

We gotta help him out.
"We gotta make him credible.

Let's get this out there.
And Seth Rich and his parents,
his family are never
treated as human beings.

The Rich family is now suing Fox News,
one of their reporters,
and a well-connected Republican donor,
who they say
coordinated on a fake news story
and put it on the network.

I made one promise to my son.

And that was the day of his funeral
I put my hand
on his coffin and I made one promise.

That I would find his murderers.

That I would bring justice
somehow before I die.

All this bullshit
has distracted
It's totally taken away
probably ever finding his murderers.

How far will these people go,
supposedly working
for the truth or something,
but it's their truth?
We have always said from day one,
we will follow the truth.

And whoever provides the truth,
we will follow that path.

So far there's been nothing to follow.

To give those ideas merit,
that's monstrous thinking.

Was I the victim, or was I also a villain?
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