By JOSH FRIEDMAN
A private investigator and former Washington, D.C. homicide detective said murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich leaked emails to the publishing organization WikiLeaks prior to his death and that local and federal investigators are engaged in a coverup of the murder.
Rod Wheeler, whom the Rich family hired to investigate their son’s murder, said in an interview aired by Fox 5 on Monday that there is evidence on Rich’s laptop proving the former DNC staffer was communicating with WikiLeaks. On Tuesday morning, Fox News cited an unnamed federal investigator in reporting Rich leaked thousands of internal DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Wheeler, who is an on-air contributor to Fox News, confirmed in an interview with the conservative network that Rich and WikiLeaks were exchanging emails.
The Fox News report states the unnamed federal investigator reviewed an FBI forensic report detailing the contents of Rich’s computer that was generated 96 hours after his murder. The investigator reportedly said Rich transferred 44,053 DNC emails and 17,761 attachments to Gavin MacFayden, a now-deceased American investigative reporter and member of the WikiLeaks operation.
Rich’s emails are now in the possession of the FBI, though the stalled murder case belongs to Washington, D.C.’s police department, the investigator told Fox News. The FBI has not commented on the report.
Last July, Rich, 27, was shot early in the morning in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood. Washington police said Rich may have been killed in an attempted robbery.
However, many critics of the Democratic Party and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have speculated that Rich may have been murdered for leaking emails to WikiLeaks.
Earlier in 2016, the email account of Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta was breached, leading to WikiLeaks obtaining Podesta’s emails. Later in the campaign, WikiLeaks published many of the emails, causing a barrage of negative publicity for the Clinton campaign. Clinton and U.S. government officials blamed the email breach on hackers tied to Russia.
WikiLeaks does not publicly disclose its sources. However, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange brought up Rich’s death during a television interview in which he said WikiLeaks sources face huge risks. Assange also disputed the police department’s account of the killing, saying there was no finding that it was related to a robbery.
Following the interview, some media and observers suggested Assange was implying that Rich was a WikiLeaks source. Though WikiLeaks denied the suggestion, the organization offered a $20,000 reward for an information leading to a conviction in the Rich murder case.
While speaking with Fox 5, Wheeler said both Washington, D.C. police and the FBI are obstructing his investigation into Rich’s murder and that local law enforcement may have received an order to drop the case.
“The police department, nor the FBI, has been forthcoming,” Wheeler said. “I actually have a source inside the police department that has looked at me straight in the eye and said, ‘Rod, we were told to stand down on 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.”
In the interview with Fox News, Wheeler alleged a government official or Clinton aide is obstructing the homicide case.
“My investigation shows someone within the D.C. government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward,” Wheeler said.
Early on July 10, 2016, Rich was reportedly talking on the phone with his girlfriend while walking home in his Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Rich was reportedly jumped, pushed to the ground and then shot twice in the back. Emergency responders found him alive, but he died in the hospital.
After the murder, Rich’s mother, Mary Rich, told NBC Washington that her son’s valuables remained in his possession after he was shot.
“There had been a struggle. His hands were bruised, his knees are bruised, his face is bruised, and yet he had two shots in his back, and yet they never took anything,” Mary Rich said.
Those who suspect a political motive in the murder point to the fact that no one stole Rich’s valuables as evidence the killing was not a botched robbery.
Mike Mueller, a neighbor who spoke with NBC Washington shortly following the shooting, suggested otherwise. Mueller, who said he heard the two gunshots, said there had been a number of robberies in the area over the previous few weeks and that Rich’s murder was probably a botched robbery.