Seth Rich story massively botted to cover-up Trump’s tactless disclosure to Lavrov and Comey firing

Posted by DanielS on Thursday, 18 May 2017 18:20.

Massively botted to cover-up Trump’s tactless disclosure to Lavrov and firing of Comey, the Seth Rich story is more of a non-story than many people realize; nevertheless, it has been massively botted (probably through Russia) to distract and obfuscate:

- Trump’s tactless disclosure to Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, that the Mossad has infiltrators among Isil. While ethno-nationalists should be grateful for this tactless implication of the Mossad and Israel, it is not necessarily a feather in Trump’s genius cap and he and his proponents would naturally want to distract from that fact.

- Trump’s tactlessly clear motives in his firing of FBI director James Comey. Again, while we ethno-nationalists might be happy that he is exposing himself to be a disingenuous/naive oaf with regard to issues and inquiries touching upon the Russian Federation, it would not necessarily be in his interest to have a great deal of attention paid to that perception.

Trump’s motives were exposed when firing Comey by tactlessly expressing ‘gratitude’ to Comey for having “assured him ‘three times’ that he was not under FBI investigation.” Moreover, Trump’s motivation to obstruct further inquiry by Comey into his (Trump’s) ties to Russia were exposed by his opposition to Comey’s investigation into Flynn’s Russian ties:

Vice, 16 May, “Trump asked Comey to drop investigation into Flynn.”  [...]  “A source told CNN that Trump’s request so appalled Comey, he felt compelled to document it.”

Reuters, 18 May: U.S. President Donald Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to end the agency’s investigation into ties between former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia, according to a source who has seen a memo written by Comey.

The explosive new development on Tuesday followed a week of tumult at the White House after Trump fired Comey and then discussed sensitive national security information about Islamic State with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The Comey memo, first reported by the New York Times, caused alarm on Capitol Hill and raised questions about whether Trump tried to interfere with a federal investigation

..Tillerson is another elephant in the room.

President Trump greets FBI Director James Comey at a reception for law enforcement officers at the White House on Jan. 22, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

YahooNews, “‘We’re in impeachment territory’: David Gergen, former presidential adviser, on Comey’s Trump memo”, 17 May 2017:

The New York Times’ report that President Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia — a conversation that Comey reportedly detailed in a memo following their February meeting — has led to talk of something not heard much in Washington since President Bill Clinton’s second term: impeachment.

“After watching the Clinton impeachment, I thought I would never see another one,” CNN political analyst David Gergen said Tuesday night shortly after the Times story was published. “But I think we’re in impeachment territory.” (There were several efforts by House Democrats to impeach President George W. Bush for various alleged offenses, most having to do with the invasion of Iraq. None of the efforts succeeded.)

Gergen — a former aide to four presidents, including Clinton and Richard Nixon — said it appears Trump was obstructing justice, a charge that led to impeachment proceedings against Nixon and Clinton.

“It looks like [Trump] was trying to impede the investigation,” Gergen said. “He was using his power to do that, and when James Comey didn’t go along with him … he fired him.”

The White House has denied Trump made such a request, saying the Times did not give “a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.” But several other media outlets — including CNN, Politico and the Washington Post — confirmed the details of the meeting and the existence of Comey’s memo — and others.

“There are other memos about his meetings too,” a friend of Comey’s told Politico. “He wrote down every word Trump said to him as soon as he could.”

“This is of enormous consequence for his presidency,” Gergen added. “I think if you look at the three bombshells that we have had — the Comey firing last week; then the sharing of this highly classified conversation with the Russians, of all people, and now Trump asking Comey to drop the case — we have a presidency that’s starting to fall apart.”

Trump is “in impeachment territory,” says Gergen, former presidential adviser to Reagan, Ford, Nixon & Clinton

Earlier Tuesday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, whether the nation is “getting closer and closer to the possibility of yet another impeachment process.”

“Reluctantly, Wolf, I have to say yes,” King said.

Blitzer posed the same question to Rep. Elijah Cummings.

“I think we’re going to have to look into a little bit further,” Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, replied. “But I’d think so.”

Appearing on CNN late Tuesday, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., said history points to Trump’s possible impeachment.

“Obstruction of justice in the case of Nixon, in the case of Clinton in the late 90s, has been considered an impeachable offense,” Curbelo said.

The word impeachment came up on MSNBC too.

“Is it an impeachable offense if the president, in fact, obstructed justice?” host Chris Hayes asked Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

“I hope you’ll forgive me if I duck that question,” Durbin replied. “I have said, and many Democrats have said, we’re not going to get into that kind of speculation.”

Durbin said the Comey memo report highlights the need for a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, as well as the need to delay the appointment of a new FBI director “until we have time to reflect on this and make sure the next person is clearly one who will be beholden to the law and to the Constitution and not in any way subservient to the president.”

On Twitter, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, announced that he plans to call for Trump’s impeachment on the House floor.

Speaking at a Republican dinner in his honor on Tuesday night, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., didn’t use the word impeachment. But he alluded to the scandal that led to the impeachment process being initiated against Nixon.

“I think we’ve seen this movie before,” McCain said. “I think it’s reaching a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale.”

Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

On Fox News’ “The Five,” talk of Trump’s impeachment was discussed — not as a possibility, but as a ploy by Democrats to undermine the president.

“It might be politically unwise and painful to go through,” Fox’s Dana Perino said. “I think that the Democrats’ leap to impeach after hearing anonymous sources is a little bit of a stretch.”

On Wednesday morning, Fox News host Bill Hemmer said, “Democrats — and well, some journalists — are getting on the scene about the big ‘I’ word before getting that memo and, frankly, getting facts.”

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., told The Hill newspaper on Wednesday that if the reports about Trump’s pressure on Comey are true, it would be grounds for impeachment.

“But everybody gets a fair trial in this country,” Amash added.



Posted by Someone active & close to Trump being investigated on Fri, 19 May 2017 21:19 | #

Daily Mail, “Key White House adviser is person of interest in FBI Russia probe”, 19 May 2017:

- The FBI is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the Washington Post reported

- The current senior administration official is someone close to the president

- Previous reports have indicated a focus on campaign officials and Trump associates who are no longer there

- President Trump on Thursday said: ‘There is no collusion between, certainly myself and my campaign – but I can always speak for myself – and the Russians – zero,’ Trump said.

Investigators probing Russian interference in the presidential election have identified a senior White House advisor as a significant person of interest, the Washington Post reported.

The official is someone close to the president, according to officials cited in the story, who wouldn’t identify the senior advisor by name.

The focus on a current senior administration official takes the investigation inside the Trump White House.

Previous reports have indicated a focus on campaign officials and Trump associates who are no longer there.

Among those being targeted is fired national security advisor Mike Flynn, who was revealed to have had Russia contacts during the transition and who also spoke at an RT banquet in 2015 where he was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Flynn for documents, but his attorney has so far indicated he will not honor it, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said Thursday. 

Trump on Thursday at a press conference denied any collusion with the Russians, but also said he was speaking ‘for myself.’

‘There is no collusion between, certainly myself and my campaign – but I can always speak for myself – and the Russians – zero,’ Trump said.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement in response to the story: ‘As the President has stated before – a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity.’

The story included a statement from White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who said: ‘As the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity.’’

Investigators remain interested in former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, whose ties to a pro-Moscow Ukrainian political party drew scrutiny even while he was helping helm Trump’s campaign.

Multiple Trump campaign officials have been revealed to have had contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

Among them are Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Trump continues to search for a new FBI director.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein this week named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead a probe of Russian election interference. 

Trump told Russia’s ambassador and foreign minister last week that James Comey, the ousted FBI director, was ‘a real nut job’ whose departure would make life easier for him.

The May 10 Oval Office meeting with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak was summarized in notes that White House aides circulated internally afterward.

One official read sections of it to a New York Times reporter, leaving press secretary Sean Spicer flummoxed as he left town on Trump’s first overseas voyage as president.

‘I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,’ Trump said, according to the summary. ‘I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.’

Trump also assured the Russian envoys: ‘I’m not under investigation.’


Posted by Trump hit by twin Russian bombshells on Fri, 19 May 2017 22:47 | #

Politico, 19 May 2017, ” Trump hit by twin Russia bombshells as he departs for foreign trip”

The president allegedly told the Russians that firing ‘nut job’ Comey relieved ‘great pressure,’ while federal probe appears to get more serious.:

President Donald Trump is facing new pressure over his decision to abruptly fire FBI Director James Comey after The New York Times revealed on Friday that the president told Russian officials in the Oval Office last week that Comey’s ouster takes “great pressure” off him.

Meanwhile, the federal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has tagged a current White House official as a “significant person of interest,” The Washington Post reported on Friday. It did not name the official.

The two stories come after a week of damning revelations about the Trump White House, which is now engulfed in scandal and facing a special prosecutor. Trump admitted last week that he fired Comey in part because of the Russia investigation, blowing up the White House message that the firing was based on a Department of Justice recommendation.

Late Friday, came confirmation that Comey will also soon get to tell his side of the story: Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced Comey will testify in a public sessions at a hearing after Memorial Day.

The White House has grappled with news that Trump allegedly revealed highly classified information about an Islamic State threat to the Russians in the same meeting he allegedly made the Comey remarks, and that he reportedly pressured Comey to ease off the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.


Posted by Seth Rich's parents on Mon, 22 May 2017 13:48 | #

Seth Rich’s parents have actually filed a cease and desist order regarding media claims of conspiracy surrounding Seth Rich’s death. They of all people would stand to benefit from possible law suits if a conspiracy were credible.


Posted by Fox Retracts Seth Rich Story on Tue, 23 May 2017 18:00 | #

CNBC, “Fox Retracts Story That Sparked Conspiracy About Slain DNC Staffer”

Fox News retracted a story about the unsolved murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.

The story sparked unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that Rich had been assassinated for allegedly leaking DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

Fox’s statement does not include an apology or statement of regret.

Fox News announced Tuesday it is retracting a story published last week that reignited conspiracy theories around the unsolved killing of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, whose family demanded an apology from the conservative news network.

Fox News, citing a single unnamed FBI source, had reported that Rich, who was murdered last year in Washington, D.C., was a potential source of internal DNC emails published by Wikileaks last summer, implying that he was then assassinated for the leak.

The report immediately caught fire among supporters of President Donald Trump as a preferable alternative explanation to the one put forward by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials, who have always maintained that Russian hackers were behind the breach.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich amplified the conspiracy theory on Fox News Sunday.

But no one did more to advance the theory — for which there’s no evidence — than Fox’s Sean Hannity, who devoted multiple segments on his show to the issue as it took off on conservative blogs and talk radio. Rich’s brother wrote a letter to Hannity’s executive producer this week asking him to stop.

On Tuesday, Fox retracted the story.

“On May 16, a story was posted on the Fox News website on the investigation into the 2016 murder of DNC Staffer Seth Rich. The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting. Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed,” Fox News said in a statement posted online.

The statement did not include an apology to Rich’s family or any admission of regret.

Rich’s family had specially demanded an apology. But a spokesperson for Rich’s family reacted to the Fox retraction by suggesting the family wanted to put the episode behind them and move on.

“The family would like to thank Fox News for their retraction on a story that has caused deep pain and anguish to the family and has done harm to Seth Rich’s legacy,” family spokesman Brad Bauman said in a statement. “We are hopeful that in the future that Fox News will work with the family to ensure the highest degree of professionality and scrutiny is followed so that only accurate facts are reported surrounding this case.”

Long before the retraction, the Fox News story fell apart factually almost the moment it was published.

Within a day, one of its main sources — a private investigator working with Rich’s family, but paid for by a conservative Dallas millionaire — recanted his story. The family has since sent him a cease and desist letter.

Subsequent reporting by NBC News and other outlets also found that the local police investigating Rich’s death never even gave his laptop to the FBI, so there was no way Fox’s purported source could have seen it.

A former law enforcement official with first-hand knowledge of Rich’s laptop told NBC News definitively: “It never contained any e-mails related to WikiLeaks, and the FBI never had it.”

The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet, apparently removed their story based on the Fox News report with any retraction or editor’s note explaining its disappearance from the Internet.

Hannity, however, showed no signs of backing down.

On his radio show Tuesday, he pressed on with the Rich case, even after his employer’s retraction, and lashed out at critics. “For those accusing me of pushing a conspiracy theory, you are the biggest phony hypocrites in the entire world,” he said.

Rich was shot and killed at age 27 while walking home late one night last July in what police suspect was a robbery gone wrong. The case is still unsolved.

More from NBC News:

O.J. Simpson could be released from prison this year


Posted by Trump: "I never mentioned Israel" on Sun, 28 May 2017 09:34 | #

With Netanyahu face-palming by his side, Trump announces to press in Israel: “I never mentioned Israel”


Posted by Ed Butowsky trumps up Seth Rich story on Sun, 06 Aug 2017 23:45 | #

NPR, “Lawsuit Alleges Fox News, Trump Supporter Made Up Seth Rich Story”, 1 August 2017:

The Fox News Channel and a wealthy supporter of President Trump worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House to concoct a story about the death of a young Democratic National Committee staffer, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges that Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Trump supporter from Texas, played a significant role in weaving a false story about Rich’s death.

Behind Fox News’ Baseless Seth Rich Story: The Untold Tale

August 1,  2017

Heard on Morning Edition

David Folkenflik

Mary Rich, the mother of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, speaks at a press conference on Aug. 1, 2016. A lawsuit alleges Fox News and a wealthy Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration’s ties to the Russian government by concocting a story about Seth Rich’s death.

The Fox News Channel and a wealthy supporter of President Trump worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House to concoct a story about the death of a young Democratic National Committee aide, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The explosive claim is part of a lawsuit filed against Fox News by Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid commentator for the news network. The suit was obtained exclusively by NPR.

Wheeler alleges Fox News and the Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration’s ties to the Russian government. His suit charges that a Fox News reporter created quotations out of thin air and attributed them to him to propel her story.

Fox’s president of news, Jay Wallace, told NPR on Monday that there was no “concrete evidence” that Wheeler was misquoted by the reporter, Malia Zimmerman. The news executive did not address a question about the story’s allegedly partisan origins. Fox News declined to allow Zimmerman to comment for this story.

The story, which first aired in May, was retracted by Fox News a week later. Fox News has, to date, taken no action in response to what it said was a failure to adhere to the network’s standards.
Fox News Retracts DNC Staffer Conspiracy Story, But Hannity Keeps It Alive
Fox News Retracts DNC Staffer Conspiracy Story, But Hannity Keeps It Alive

The lawsuit focuses particular attention on the role of the Trump supporter, Ed Butowsky, in weaving the story. He is a wealthy Dallas investor and unpaid Fox commentator on financial matters who has emerged as a reliable Republican surrogate in recent years. Butowsky offered to pay for Wheeler to investigate the death of the DNC aide, Seth Rich, on behalf of his grieving parents in Omaha, Neb.

On April 20, a month before the story ran, Butowsky and Wheeler — the investor and the investigator — met at the White House with then-press secretary Sean Spicer to brief him on what they were uncovering.

The first page of the lawsuit quotes a voicemail and text from Butowsky boasting that Trump himself had reviewed drafts of the Fox News story just before it went to air and was published.

Spicer now tells NPR that he took the meeting as a favor to Butowsky. Spicer says he was unaware of any contact involving the president. And Butowsky tells NPR that he was kidding about Trump’s involvement.

“Rod Wheeler unfortunately was used as a pawn by Ed Butowsky, Fox News and the Trump administration to try and steer away the attention that was being given about the Russian hacking of the DNC emails,” says Douglas Wigdor, Wheeler’s lawyer.

The back story

On May 16, the Fox News Channel broke what it called a “bombshell” story about an unsolved homicide: the July 2016 shooting of 27-year-old Democratic Party staffer Seth Rich.

Unfounded conspiracy theories involving Rich abounded in the months after his death, in part because WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cryptically suggested that Rich’s death may have been related to the leaks of tens of thousands of emails from Democratic Party officials and their allies at the peak of the presidential campaign.

Fox News’ story, which took flight online and ran in segments across major shows, breathed fresh life into the rumors. Fox reported that the leaks came from inside the party and not from hackers linked to Russia — despite the conclusions of the nation’s most senior intelligence officials. The network suggested that Democrats might have been connected to Rich’s death and that a cover-up had thwarted the official investigation.

The network cited an unnamed FBI official. And the report relied heavily on Wheeler, a former police detective, hired months earlier on behalf of the Riches by Butowsky.

These developments took place during growing public concern over a federal investigation into the Trump camp’s possible collusion with the Russian government during the campaign. The allegations have since touched the president’s son and son-in-law, his former campaign manager, his attorney general and his first national security adviser, who resigned as a result.

The question of Rich’s death took on greater urgency for Butowsky after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in early May. Comey had been overseeing the Russia investigation. The story ran just a week later.

Fox News host Sean Hannity speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2016. Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid commentator for Fox News, appeared on Hannity’s show to discuss Seth Rich’s death. A week after the appearance, Fox retracted the story, saying the reporting process failed to live up to its standards.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Fox’s report went sideways shortly after it was posted online and aired on Fox & Friends. It was denounced by the Rich family, D.C. police, Democratic Party officials and even, privately, by some journalists within the network. Within hours, Wheeler told other news outlets that Fox News had put words in his mouth.

Despite those concerns, Wheeler appeared on the shows of Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and Fox News star Sean Hannity, who devoted significant time to the story that night and in subsequent days. In speaking with Wheeler, Hannity said: “If this is true and Seth Rich gave WikiLeaks the DNC e-mails ... this blows the whole Russia collusion narrative completely out of the water.”

A week later, on May 23, Fox retracted the story, saying the reporting process failed to live up to its standards. Hannity said he would take a break from talking about Rich’s death out of respect for the family. And there it has largely stood — until now.

The fake news story

In the lawsuit, the private investigator sets out a different version of events. Wheeler, a paid Fox News contributor since 2005, alleges the story was orchestrated behind the scenes and from the outset by Butowsky, who hired him on behalf of the Rich family.

The following account reflects the verbatim quotes provided from the texts, emails, voicemails and recorded conversations cited in Wheeler’s lawsuit, except as otherwise noted.

According to the lawsuit, Trump press secretary Sean Spicer meets at the White House with Wheeler and Butowsky to review the Rich story a month before Fox News ran the piece.

On May 14, about 36 hours before Fox News’ story appears, Butowsky leaves a voicemail for Wheeler, saying, “We have the full, uh, attention of the White House on this. And tomorrow, let’s close this deal, whatever we’ve got to do.”

Butowsky also texts Wheeler: “Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you.”

Spicer confirms meeting with the two but denies claims about the president.

“Ed’s been a longtime supporter of the president and asked to meet to catch up,” Spicer tells NPR on Monday night.

“I didn’t know who Rod Wheeler was. Once we got into my office, [Butowsky] said, ‘I’m sure you recognize Rod Wheeler from Fox News.’ “

Spicer says Butowsky laid out what had been found about the case. “It had nothing to do with advancing the president’s domestic agenda — and there was no agenda,” Spicer says. “They were just informing me of the [Fox] story.”

Spicer says he is not aware of any contact, direct or not, between Butowsky and Trump. And Butowsky now tells NPR he has never shared drafts of the story with Trump or his aides — that he was joking with a friend.

Instead, Butowsky repeatedly claims that the meeting was set up to address Wheeler’s pleas for help landing a job for the Trump administration. Wheeler’s attorney, Wigdor, says there is no evidence to support that claim.

In the suit, Wheeler alleges that Butowsky was using the White House references to pressure him.

Wheeler did play his own role in furthering the story. But he contends that he regretted it the same day it aired. His suit alleges Fox News defamed him by manufacturing two false quotations attributed to him and ruining his reputation by blaming him as the deceptive story fell apart. Wheeler, an African-American, is also suing the network for racial discrimination, saying he failed to advance as prominently as white counterparts. Fox News had no comment on that allegation.

Who is Ed Butowsky?

Butowsky is a silver-haired brash investor who became known for helping newly rich athletes figure out how to manage their money — and avoid getting fleeced. A native New Yorker and son of a former top enforcement officer for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Butowsky attended the University of Texas in the early 1980s. He set up his own company, Chapwood Capital Investment Management in Addison, Texas, outside Dallas, after a long stint at Morgan Stanley.

Federal records compiled by the election finance database show Butowsky has given money to the campaigns of nine politicians: seven Republicans and two Democrats, including $1,000 to Barack Obama’s campaign in January 2008

The lawsuit alleges that Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Trump supporter from Texas, played a significant role in weaving a false story about Rich’s death.

In recent years, Butowsky has become outspoken about his political beliefs, becoming a familiar face on Fox News and its sister channel, the Fox Business Network. Butowsky has also appeared on Breitbart News’ radio programs featuring then-Breitbart Chairman Steve Bannon, who became Trump’s campaign chief and is now the president’s senior political strategist.

Butowsky emerged as a vocal backer of Trump’s candidacy. He attended Trump’s inauguration, posting pictures from the day on social media. In the Seth Rich case, Butowsky presented himself as a good Samaritan who came across a sliver of information about Seth Rich’s death and shared it with the Riches.

“I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to help these people out,’ ” Butowsky said on the radio show of David Webb, a conservative Fox News contributor. “Somehow, these people need to know what happened to their little boy.” He gave a similar account in an interview Monday with NPR.

Wheeler’s lawsuit alleges that Butowsky’s generosity is clearly politically motivated.

On Feb. 23, more than six months after Rich’s death, Butowsky introduces himself to Wheeler with a flattering text, citing mutual friends from Fox News. “Behind the scenes, I do a lot of work, (unpaid) helping to uncover certain stories,” Butowsky writes, as recounted in the suit.

“[M]y biggest work was revealing most of what we know today about Benghazi,” the deadly attack in Libya that sparked a congressional investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Later that day, Butowsky speaks to Wheeler for about 20 minutes by phone, saying his primary aim is to help the Rich family.

The man behind the lawsuit: Rod Wheeler

Wheeler, a 57-year-old former Washington, D.C., homicide detective, was part of the Metropolitan Police Department from 1990 to 1995, when he was dismissed, according to the agency. His New York City-based attorney, Wigdor, says Wheeler was fired for insubordination after his urine tested positive for trace amounts of marijuana.

At the time he meets with Butowsky, Wheeler has been a paid contributor to Fox News for more than 11 years and has been actively but unsuccessfully seeking greater exposure on the network, according to the suit.

Five days later, the two men meet in person at a lunch in Washington. Butowsky introduces an unexpected third guest: Malia Zimmerman, a Fox News investigative reporter based in Los Angeles known for enterprise reporting from a conservative standpoint.



Posted by Sean Hannity does fake news for Trump on Sun, 06 Aug 2017 23:56 | #

NPR, “DNC Staffer’s Murder Illustrates How Conspiracy Theorists Spread Fake News’,

According to the account in the suit, Butowsky cautions Wheeler before they set out to meet the Riches: “[M]ake sure to play down Fox News. Don’t mention you know Malia.”

And Butowsky lays out a different mission than aiding the Rich family. Butowsky says he became convinced that the FBI had a report concluding that Seth Rich’s laptop showed he had had contacts with WikiLeaks after speaking to the legendary reporter Seymour Hersh, who was also investigating Rich’s death. According to the transcripts in the lawsuit, Butowsky says Hersh had an FBI source who confirmed the report.

In an interview this week, Hersh sounds unconvinced.

“I hear gossip,” Hersh tells NPR on Monday. “[Butowsky] took two and two and made 45 out of it.”

Rich’s parents initially welcome Wheeler’s help and Butowsky’s largesse. On March 14, Butowsky pays Wheeler $5,000, through a limited partnership company called Googie LP. (NPR found that Butowsky is listed in Texas public records as its general partner.)

Wheeler does not make great headway. The FBI informs Butowsky, Wheeler and Zimmerman that the agency is not assisting the Washington, D.C., police on the investigation — undercutting claims about an FBI report.

A Metro D.C. police detective tells Wheeler that Rich’s death was likely a robbery gone awry and that the FBI is not involved.

Preparing to publish

On May 9, Trump fires Comey.

On May 10, Butowsky and Zimmerman call Wheeler to say they have an FBI source confirming emails were sent from Seth Rich to WikiLeaks, though they do not share the source’s identity, according to the investigator’s suit. Wheeler will later say this is the only federal law enforcement source that Fox News — or he — has related to this story.

Wheeler says he doesn’t know whether that source emerged from Butowsky’s conversation with Seymour Hersh or whether it was a fabrication.

The next day, Zimmerman sends Wheeler a draft of her story, which is to run initially on the network’s website. It includes no quotes from Wheeler.

The night before the story ran and the day of the story itself, Butowsky coached Wheeler on what to say on the air.”

On the evening of May 14, Butowsky leaves a voicemail for Wheeler raising the stakes by invoking the White House and saying, “Let’s close this deal.”

A bit later that night, at 9:10 p.m., Butowsky texts Wheeler, according to Wheeler’s suit: “Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure.”

As the night before the story is aired progresses, Butowsky is awake, online and anticipating what is to unfold in a few short hours.

Butowsky sends an email to Fox News producers and hosts coaching them on how to frame the Rich story, according to the lawsuit. Recipients included Fox & Friends hosts, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade.

“I’m actually the one who’s been putting this together but as you know, I keep my name out of things because I have no credibility,” Butowsky writes, as reflected in the Wheeler suit. “One of the big conclusions we need to draw from this is that the Russians did not hack our computer systems and ste[a]l emails and there was no collusion” between “Trump and the Russians.”

The night before the story ran and the day of the story itself, Butowsky coaches Wheeler on what to say on the air: “[T]he narrative in the interviews you might use is that you and [Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman’s] work to prove that the Russians didn’t hack into the DNC and steal the emails and impact our elections.” In another text, he writes: “If you can, try to highlight this puts the Russian hacking story to rest.”

Fox goes with the story

The story breaks earlier than expected.

On the evening of May 15, Fox News’ sister local station in Washington, Fox 5 DC, runs a story online at once promoting and pre-empting the network’s apparent scoop. “The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming,” Wheeler tells the station. “They haven’t been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both.”

On Fox & Friends, the hosts call the story a ‘bombshell.’ “

Asked whether his sources have told him about information linking Rich to the WikiLeaks email dump, Wheeler says, “Absolutely. Yeah. That’s confirmed.”

The next morning, the story goes national.

Fox News reports that evidence from Rich’s laptop showed he had been in contact with WikiLeaks just days before the site posted those emails. Fox also reports that powerful forces were trying to quash the official investigation into his death.

On Fox & Friends, the hosts call the story a “bombshell.”

Zimmerman’s online story cites an unnamed “federal investigator who reviewed an FBI report” for its findings. It also cites Wheeler, incorporating two key quotations from Wheeler that do not appear on video. In each, the private investigator seemingly takes ownership of the accusations.

The first: “My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.”

The second: “My investigation shows someone within the D.C. government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward. That is unfortunate. Seth Rich’s murder is unsolved as a result of that.”

The Riches torch Wheeler, saying they have seen no proof for his contentions.

Wheeler alleges both quotations were fabricated and untrue.

According to the lawsuit, Zimmerman promises to have those lines removed — but they stay in the story. Zimmerman then tells him that her bosses at Fox News had instructed her to leave those quotes in.

That same day, the suit recounts, Zimmerman writes a letter to Seth Rich’s father, Joel, distancing Fox News from responsibility for what the network reported: “Much of our information came from a private investigator, Rod Wheeler, who we understand was working on behalf of you.”

Wheeler challenges Zimmerman over the letter in a three-way phone conversation that also included Butowsky. The Fox News reporter defends herself: “That’s the email that Fox asked me to send him. They wrote it for me.”

Wheeler replies: “That’s not accurate, though, because much, much of the information did not come from me.”

“Not about the emails. Not the part about, I mean, the connection to WikiLeaks,” Zimmerman acknowledges. “But the rest of the quotes in the story did.”

Butowsky weighs in: “One day you’re going to win an award for having said those things you didn’t say.” Later, according to the recordings transcribed in the suit, Butowsky acknowledges Wheeler hadn’t made any claims of personal knowledge about emails between Rich and WikiLeaks. “I know that’s not true,” Butowsky says. “If I’m under oath, I would say I never heard him say that.”

Both try to keep Wheeler on board, however.

Zimmerman issues instructions for Wheeler’s appearance on Sean Hannity’s show later that evening. “Reread the story we sent you last night [that contained the invented quotes] and stick to the script,” she texts Wheeler.
Unproved Claims Re-Emerge Around DNC Staffer’s Death: Here’s What You Should Know

Unproved Claims Re-Emerge Around DNC Staffer’s Death: Here’s What You Should Know

Despite his misgivings, Wheeler plays along. On Hannity’s show, Wheeler says he doesn’t personally know about Rich’s emails or computers but says that a “very credible” federal investigator says “he laid eyes on the case file.” Wheeler offers energetic speculation though not much more: “When you look at that with the totality of everything else that I found in this case it’s very consistent for a person with my experience to begin to think well perhaps there were some e-mail communications between Seth and WikiLeaks.”

The aftermath

On May 23, Fox News posts an unsigned statement retracting Zimmerman’s online story.

The network does not apologize or explain what went wrong. “The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting,” the statement reads. “Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed.”

In early June, Wheeler meets with Dianne Brandi, general counsel for the network, and Jay Wallace, the network’s president for news. He makes his case that fabricated quotes had knowingly been attributed to him. Neither ever publicly speak of the matter afterward, until now. “Since meeting with Rod Wheeler, we have also met with Malia Zimmerman to try to determine whether Rod was misquoted,” Wallace says in a statement to NPR. “As of now, we don’t have concrete evidence that he was.”

A Fox News executive knowledgeable about the controversy, who would only speak if granted anonymity, tells NPR, “The story was published to the website without review by or permission from senior management.” The executive notes that Wallace had placed the broadcast and digital newsgathering teams under the same leadership for the first time after a series of management changes following the forced departure of the network’s founder, the late Roger Ailes, and many of his top deputies.

In late June, Wheeler warns Fox News and Butowsky that he may file suit. Three days later, Butowsky tweets: “Fox News story was pulled b/c Rod Wheeler said [he] didn’t say a quote ... How much did DNC pay him?” And then Butowsky tweets: “This shows Rod Wheeler has a major battle with the truth.”

The two men, thrust together on a common effort for months, have been torn apart by its aftermath. In the interview with NPR, Butowsky insists that he was acting out of a civic-minded spirit for the Riches and not with any partisan or political drive. Zimmerman remains on staff at Fox News, actively reporting on unrelated stories.

A spokeswoman for the FBI tells NPR this week that the agency has played no part in the investigation of the unsolved homicide. And a spokeswoman for Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department says, “MPD stands behind its original assertion that Seth Rich was the victim of a botched armed robbery.”

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