Amid Russia Row, New Conspiracy Theories Swirl Over Murder of DNC’s Seth Rich

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By Emily Zanotti | 1:12 pm, December 14, 2016

Internet sleuths are  now investigating whether recent U.S. allegations about Russian cyber-spying are actually a smokescreen to conceal the key role played by murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich in the whole affair. And while they don’t appear to have any substantiation, the bubbling conspiracy theories over Rich’s tragic death have now reached full boil.

At the same time, the reward for information leading to the capture of Rich’s killers has this month reached $150,000, believed to be the highest ever bounty for a murderer in Washington D.C.

The resurgence of interest in Rich’s unsolved murder case started last week, when the Washington Post reported that hackers, likely affiliated with the Russian government, were responsible for leaking thousands of DNC documents and emails in order to help Donald Trump win the election.

With the DNC email story back in the news, Internet conspiracy theorists quickly tried to apply the new information to the murder of Rich, a DNC staffer who was killed last summer in what appears to have been a botched, early morning robbery. His killer or killers have not been found.

Conspiracy theorists now posit that the allegations against Russia are a “smokescreen” designed to distract from an investigation into Rich’s death, one that might turn up evidence that Rich was leaking DNC documents to Wikileaks on behalf of a powerful Bernie Sanders donor.

Social media sleuths are pointing to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s suggestion that Rich gave Wikileaks the DNC documents, and to Assange’s suggestions that Hillary Clinton herself may have somehow been involved in Rich’s death.

But it doesn’t appear that Assange is privy to any proof of his claim, as he’s offered no concrete evidence. And Wikileaks is supposed to be a double-blind publishing system — so that its editors don’t know the source of their information and therefore aren’t liable for what gets leaked.

Conspiracy theories aside, Rich’s death remains a lingering, unsolved mystery. Rich, 27,  was killed in the early morning hours of July 8, around the corner from his apartment in the city’s up-and-coming Bloomingdale neighborhood. He was returning from a neighborhood bar, talking on the phone with his girlfriend, when he was accosted and shot twice with what police now say was a revolver, since no bullet casings were left at the scene.

Early theories pointed to a random crime, likely a robbery. But Rich’s watch, wallet and cell phone were still on his body when he was found.

Washington police told Heat Street on Wednesday that they are still pursuing leads, including several generated in the last month, but don’t have any concrete information for the public at this time.

Rich’s family traveled to DC in late November to renew their plea for help in solving their son’s death. Along with Republican lobbyist, Jack Burkman, they are now offering $150,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Burkman says his involvement comes after realizing that what happened to Rich could have happened to any of his staffers, Republican or Democrat. He emphasized that he is not helping out in order to substantiate any Internet theories – just to help the family of one of hundreds of young people who are the backbone of DC’s operations. Last week, Burkman increased the reward offer by $5,000.

Rich’s parents have also recently taken the opportunity to emphasize their plea that conspiracy theorists to leave their son’s death alone, telling the press that their son was not involved in any secret plot.

“You can’t defend a lie, anybody who knew Seth knew that wasn’t his personality or what he believed in, it’s so counter to what Seth believed in and there are no facts so how do you defend against a lie,” said the family in a statement.

The DNC has also placed a small memorial to Rich outside of their headquarters.

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