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Nobody here is a very good investigator

As we noted yesterday, the Wingnuttosphere is going nuts over the evidence-free assertion that Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Committee staffer who was murdered last summer, was absolutely definitely 100% maybe the real source of Wikileaks’ purloined DNC documents, which of course means Russia never hacked nothing and they are our bestest friends, and also (probably) that Hillary Clinton is back to her murderous ways. All this is based on a story run by Fox’s DC affiliate, WTTG-TV (“Fox 5”), on Monday, with the sensational claim that Rod Wheeler, a private investigator working for Rich’s family, had found evidence Seth Rich was in communication with Wikileaks, and that the contacts had been corroborated by a federal investigator. Wow! Hot stuff! Except maybe not; CNN reports Wheeler admitted to them Tuesday that he learned of the “new evidence” from the WTTG reporter he spoke to, who then laundered that to be its own proof. (It is sort of like how the White House summoned House Intel Chair Devin Nunes to give him information that he could then give to the White House. In fact, it is exactly like that.)

But Tuesday afternoon, Wheeler told CNN he had no evidence to suggest Rich had contacted Wikileaks before his death.

Wheeler instead said he only learned about the possible existence of such evidence through the reporter he spoke to for the FoxNews.com story. He explained that the comments he made to WTTG-TV were intended to simply preview Fox News’ Tuesday story. The WTTG-TV news director did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“I only got that [information] from the reporter at Fox News,” Wheeler told CNN.

Asked about a quote attributed to him in the Fox News story in which he said his “investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and Wikileaks,” Wheeler said he was referring to information that had already been reported in the media.

Huh. That is something less than compelling, we think. But hey, even though Wheeler has actually not seen any real evidence, he did talk to a guy who said it exists, as he told Sean Hannity in a bizarre interview Tuesday night:

Strangely, Wheeler never volunteers to Hannity that he’d told CNN earlier Tuesday that most of the stuff attributed to him by Fox 5 WAS ACTUALLY GIVEN TO HIM BY THE FOX 5 REPORTER, not the result of his own investigation. Hannity also seems not to notice at all that Wheeler acknowledges he’s never seen the computer or any emails on it, but he’s heard there might be, especially if Rich was in contact with Wikileaks. Not that he knows whether Rich was in contact with Wikileaks. Wheeler even acknowledges that, sure, it’s entirely possible that the DC Police are right, and that Rich died in a bungled robbery. Even when Hannity suggests there’s something very suspicious that Rich’s wallet and watch weren’t taken, Wheeler says that’s not so unusual — before rabbiting off on the possibility that other stuff might have been going on, too. Maybe. So despite the complete lack of evidence that Rich was a victim of Hillary Clinton’s death squads, it’s important to keep an open mind, you know?

NBC updated their story on Rich yesterday with further reporting on that computer:

Meanwhile, a current FBI official and a former one completely discount the Fox News claim that an FBI analysis of a computer belonging to Rich contained thousands of e-mails to and from WikiLeaks.

Local police in Washington, D.C., never even gave the FBI Rich’s laptop to analyze after his murder, according to the current FBI official.

And a former law enforcement official with first-hand knowledge of Rich’s laptop said the claim was incorrect. “It never contained any e-mails related to WikiLeaks, and the FBI never had it,” the person said.

As we noted yesterday, the Rich family issued a statement saying they had seen “no facts, seen no evidence, [and we have been approached with no emails] that suggested any link between their son and WikiLeaks. Brad Bauman, a spokesman for the Rich family, told CNN that rightwing news outlets

“have shown over and over again that they are willing to lie and manipulate the facts” to further “their own political end.”

“I think it’s important for everyone at Fox News to be careful with this information and how this story breaks because using the legacy of a murder victim in such an overtly political way is morally reprehensible,” he said.

Bauman also said the family was considering legal action against Wheeler, who’s being paid by a third party, for violating a contract that prohibited him from speaking to the media without their consent. For his part, Wheeler seems not to know what was in his contract:

Asked whether he was in breach of a contract, Wheeler said, “I don’t know, it’s hard to say.”

“I think that’s something I will have to work out with [the family],” he added.

That’s one detail-oriented investigator. CNN’s story also confirms Wheeler was put in touch with the Rich family by Texas financial adviser Ed Butowsky, who had previously denied to NBC that he had anything to do with Wheeler. Butowski sounds like quite a piece of work, too! Why had he denied his involvement when he spoke to NBC? “I didn’t want to talk to NBC,” he explained to CNN. Well OK then!

Butowski also said that while he’d offered to pay Wheeler’s expenses, Wheeler is investigating the case at no cost, so he hasn’t made any payments. Gee, you sort of have to wonder why a really top-notch investigator would work for free. Maybe he’s just that interested in the truth.

Or maybe he’s just that interested in being on TV, since it turns out Wheeler, a fired DC police officer, has a history of highly imaginative crime reporting for Fox, including the time he pulled his eyes back at the sides to explain that a Chinese rape suspect would have “eyes like this”:

Wheeler also joked, regarding a guy who got tasered — yes, the “Don’t tase me, bro!” guy — at a John Kerry speech in 2007, that “The guy should have been tasered. Anybody listening to John Kerry should have been tasered, first of all.”

But our favorite Wheeler story of all was his contention on Bill O’Reilly’s show in October of 2007 that a “national underground network” of lesbians packing pink pistols were roaming America, raping straight boys and forcing straight girls to become lesbians, at (pink) gunpoint:

“Well, you know, there is this national underground network, if you will, Bill, of women that’s lesbians and also some men groups that’s actually recruiting kids as young as 10 years old in a lot of the schools in the communities all across the country,” he reported. “And they actually carry a number of weapons. And they commit a number of crimes.”

He claimed he knew of at least 150 such gay crime gangs in the DC Metro area alone, and that they’re all over the country. And then he got to the pink guns:

“Now, the other thing, too, that our viewers are going to find very, very interesting, is the fact that they actually carry—some of these groups carry pink pistols,” Wheeler said. “They call themselves the pink-pistol-packing group. And these are lesbians that actually carry pistols. That’s 9-millimeter Glocks. They use these. They commit crimes, and they cause a lot of hurt to a lot of people.”

You may be shocked to know the Southern Poverty Law Center found no actual evidence of vast numbers of lesbian gangs running around with pink Glocks. Even though it was on TV!

Still, Fox is determined to ride The Seth Rich Did Wikileaks story as far as it can, which means probably until some other moron shows up with an even more ridiculous claim. Fox Business talker Lou “Yes I’m Still Employed Somehow” Dobbs also ran with the story Tuesday night, because there certainly hasn’t been anything else going on in the news. Dobbs and Fox News talking head Ed Rollins explained that Seth Rich’s family is obviously in on the cover-up, because don’t most people want to avoid the real truth about their son’s murder from coming to light?

Rollins: We begin with the motive, and the motive obviously was this was someone who took 40,000 documents out of the DNC and gave it to WikiLeaks. He’s murdered in the middle of the night. That’s a pretty straight line for most law enforcement to go find that and look for the evidence.

They’re basically trying to say it was a street crime, some guy stumbling out of a bar and gets murdered. Well, there’s been no murders in that neighborhood. You know, my sense is that this should be a big investigation, this should continue, and I think at the end of the day, you’ll find some other facts than they have today.

Dobbs: The fellow, Bauman, who is speaking for the family, he is — he is connected to the Democratic party, he’s doing pro bono work, but nonetheless, you have now a partisan shroud around the family. You have an investigation that is going nowhere. The department admits that. And the FBI investigator is the one who has a specific number, 44,053 emails that were transferred from his computer to WikiLeaks, and guess what? The police department, the federal investigators, none of them know where that computer is.

Oh, and the proof that Rich had taken 40,000 documents from the DNC? That mysterious, unnamed former FBI guy who knows stuff. Seems a bit unlikely, given that, as Yr Wonkette pointed out the first time this dumb story got traction in the loonosphere, Rich worked for the DNC on

voter expansion, which is a fancy way of saying he helped people find their polling place. At 27, Rich had only been working for the DNC since 2014, making it unlikely he’d even have access to any high-level information that would document some kind of nefarious plot to install Hillary Clinton as empress of the Earth.

But sure, now we know, from a guy who warns about pink gun lesbian crime gangs and gets his own investigative details from reporters who interview him, that this is all the Deep State trying to cover up where the DNC emails came from. Sure makes a lot more sense than relying on all the intelligence agencies in the government, doesn’t it?

[CNN / NBC News / Media Matters / Buzzfeed / SPLC]

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