Investigative reporter Michael Isikoff published an exclusive today tracing the source of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, which was widely publicized by Sean Hannity and Fox News, to Russia’s foreign intelligence service. You may recall that numerous right wingers, including Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Steve Bannon and Hannity promoted a story that DNC staffer Seth Rich had decided to go to the FBI to provide information about corruption in the Clinton campaign, but that assassins controlled by Hillary Clinton gunned down Rich before he could talk to the FBI.
Isikoff’s reporting today for the first time traces the false report directly to Russian intelligence services:
Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony “bulletin” — disguised to read as a real intelligence report —about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol.
Exclusive: The true origins of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.
The fake SVR bulletin was then publicized on websites that promoted Russian propaganda. Online trolls working out of St. Petersburg helped promote discussions, while RT and Sputnik played up the false reports. The Russians suggested that Rich was the source for Wikileaks, which would take the Russians off the hook.
Although the Trump White House denies that it promoted the story in 2017 as a diversion to the appointment of the Special Counsel, Isikoff reports that Bannon texted a producer of 60 Minutes at CBS saying that it was “a contract kill, obviously.” In May 2017, Sean Hannity promoted the story to “expose the single biggest fraud, lies, perpetrated on the American people by the media and the Democrats in our history.” One has to wonder how a guy like Sean Hannity can get paid millions of dollars every year after it is proven that his reporting was derived from fake Russian intelligence sources that he had no interest in verifying.
This is just another of the dozens of stories that get lost trying to keep up with the Trump Administration. But preserving this history and analyzing is important, and these stories shouldn’t get lost. It’s part of why Trump has a solid base. We have to expect more of it in the 2020 campaign.