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Episode 1: The last days of Seth Rich

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It was early Sunday morning July tenth two thousand sixteen and Mark Mueller was startled by the sound of gunfire outside his house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington D._C.. I immediately look back at the clock. 'cause I figured somebody's GonNa ask me one. When I heard the shots and it was four nineteen so I went running running down and ran outside to the corner of flagler earn w with the cops were arriving and paramedics were already shown up Mueller described gruesome scene the young man had been shot and was sprawled out on the street fighting thing for his life? Especial expression was just pure shock. He looked at me but that was the luck of what's going on. The victim was Seth Rich twenty-seven-year-old from Omaha who've been working at the Democratic National Committee. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead at five fifty seven A._M.. Earning brief attention on the local newscasts our top story in Omaha family is grieving tonight after their son was shot and killed in Washington N._p._D.'s looking into the possibility that rich's murderer is connected to other recent robberies and they're still trying to figure out who murdered Democratic National Committee Staffer Seth Rich in the Bloomingdale neighborhood. There were no witnesses to the crime three years later not a single suspect has been named nor has there ever been a motive established though authorities continue to say that it was most likely an attempted robbery tragically botched and yet the death of seth rich has taken on a life of its own. It spawned bizarre outlandish conspiracy theories so what really happened. Seth Rich while we know Hillary likes to kill people now. She's he's got a long history of having her Henchman Ladies and gentlemen. Seth ranch was assassinated for political reasons. This is probably the biggest assassination story since J._F._K.. On texting with Steve Bannon and Bannon writes back the kid that got shot huge story it was a contract kill. Obviously it might expose the single biggest fraud lies perpetrated on the American people and Michael isikoff welcome to Yahoo News conspiracy land the untold story of Seth rich a special six part podcast brought to you by skulduggery. I've been an an investigative journalist in Washington for several decades now and I was heavily involved in reporting on the role that Russia played interfering in the two thousand sixteen presidential election the leaking of D._N._C. emails to wikileaks the creation of fake twitter accounts ounce and the manipulation of social media the attempts to recruit or coop members of the trump campaign but as I did so I kept hearing in the background much of it coming from trump allies how seth rich's death and not Russian meddling was the real story of what happened during the election. I've always been drawn to conspiracy theories like this not because I believe in them in fact almost all of the big ones I've studied fall apart under the close scrutiny but because they are a window into the dark corners or political soul the belief in malevolent powers pulling the strings the conviction that your political rivals will go to any lanes to achieve their aims and cover up their crimes uh-huh and the idea that the mainstream media will deliberately hide the truth from the American people all of these are reflected in which conspiracy theories we choose to believe in and which ones get traction so it has been with the case of seth rich his murder was only one out of one hundred thirty five in the District of Columbia in two thousand sixteen and yet no conspiracy from that year had more legs and was arguably more cruel than the stories about this real life tragedy the thing that was really astonishing to me about the seth rich story is how many people chose to involve themselves in from every sort of level of society from the Zillah conspiracy entrepreneurs. Nobody knows who they are just guys shouting into youtube videos and periscopes all the way up to as far as we know perhaps the White House it was a true mystery. We do do not know who killed seth rich and those two things combined the elements of political suspicion and the genuine honest to God real life unsolved crime drew so many people in much of what has been circulated about seth riches life and his violent death is ally probably so but nothing has stopped these falsehoods from flourishing in a Netherworld of Internet cranks tres and trolls and then getting amplified lied by alright websites and conservative Cable News Stars most startling of all we discovered was a hidden hand thousands of miles away fanning the flames the each. Inch <hes> D._J.. wiki leaks US label computer. How does all this happen? Why do these stories take Rupe? You'll hear from some of the purveyors of these bogus conspiracy theories as we try to get inside their heads soon. You'll think I'm nuts. I'm a believer in the deep state. I believe they're elements in the U._S.. Government probably in the until bureaucracy of the law enforcement bureaucracy where and why don't we have the computer. Why is this murder solved? The speculation relation around is interesting and I think that it's fair play to discuss it just talking about it doesn't mean that you're you know frothing at the mouth of conspiracy theories. Why are they covering everything up? Why is no one talking about this? Why will no one in the mainstream media touch this for the first time you'll hear from the prosecutor who uncovered how these stories began there were too many conspiracy theories that were all the same I would think at in in multiple places and I I really don't believe in coincidence then we'll also talk to some obsessed friends and neighbors who have been targeted and harassed by Internet bullies and his parents who've watched painfully as as their son's death has been twisted and exploited? I wish they had the chance to experience at all we have gone through because this is worse than losing my son on the first time all over again. This is episode one. The last days of seth rich on the evening of July eighth two thousand sixteen seth rich strolled into lose city bar in Washington. D._C.'s Columbia Heights neighborhood settled into his usual seed and was quickly served his favorite drink. A bell's two hearted Ale rich was irregular here a cheerful young man five foot ten one hundred eighty pounds with a close cropped beard and a bit of a beer panch he would come in three or four times a week sometimes sitting for hours nursing his beer shooting the breeze. There wasn't an employee. There was an any one of our regulars. That didn't have seth I mean it was very choosy. He'd walk in. Hey a beer and sit down. That's a part time bartender at lose. We know as Evan as Evan recalls it on this Friday night. Seth was facing a tough choice he'd been working for the Democratic National Committee helping to develop a computer software program to identify hi potential voters for the fall election but he had just been offered a new job to work on voter turnout for Hillary Clinton's campaign in Brooklyn. It was a great opportunity but seth was torn. This was a looming decision. He seemed genuinely conflicted and he needed to make up his mind and either drop everything from D._C.. Moved to New York or stay in D._C. and tough it out just a few hours earlier he'd been going over the pros and cons with his parents Joel and Mary rich who are back home in Omaha what I had told him was. This is a once in the lifetime. You have to go with the with the campaign. If that's where you're going to key and his girlfriend had there's some things to figure out he was trying to figure out how to out Ford. It's ten things like that. Then there were still questions that he needed to answer to that he didn't have. I guess <hes> there's an email e mail that he had started to write. We think it was the start of a reply accepting the job to better understand who seth was. We went to Nebraska to talk to those who noon best his parents and and his friends it's about a half an hour west of downtown Omaha where the richest raise seth and his older brother Aaron an area that used to be distinct from the city but now with growth the suburbs outnumber a number of the cornfields we actually on the same soccer team together. That's Corey Lynch when obsessed friends from the fifth grade is extremely loyal. I think if there was a friend where I've ever felt like I was in a pinch I knew I could call him and coincidentally also knew that he would pick up in these conversations. A couple of things stood out the first is contrary to the claims in the later conspiracies. There was nothing remotely devious about seth rich in fact he was from all accounts sunny and even a little goofy at times he was a bit of a have in the sense of he was willing to put throw himself under the bus so that everyone else could feel comfortable and be laughing at something together silly nine for sure and I'm sure everyone will tell you that alison steele was s girlfriend when they were students at Creighton University one time when Steele who suffers from cystic fibrosis was hospitalized. Kate dressed up as a polar bear to my hospital brown at just with zero zero regard for anybody else he didn't care about anyone else. Just wanted to make me laugh. Make me smile the other thing. Everyone remembers that he was consumed with politics even in high school this this kids used. To Watch C._N._N.. And all the political channels ernest he was about it. This is a good story. Actually I had never voted and pieces. I don't care who in vote for but you have to vote for someone. You don't even have to tell me who you vote for but you have to vote. The only time I've ever voted is when I was dating Steph my name's Erin French. I also went to high school with my corey met him. Probably I say a freshman year her he and I worked on the Senate campaign of Ben Nelson in two thousand six together kind of canvassers phone bankers and for both of us. It was our first political job. Did he have ambitions in politics. I think at that point he absolutely did he. I think this is kind of the bravado and boasting of a young kid he was confident that he was going to be in Congress or in the Senate he even bidding self move to Washington after graduating from Creighton and got a job as a data programmer with the prestigious polling firm then in two thousand fourteen he landed a position with the Democratic National Committee where his infectious enthusiasm copy attention of his bosses losses. Did you know seth which of course I did. He worked in the Division that I supervise voting rights voter protection. Donna Brazile veteran Democratic Party operative was at this time the vice chair of the D._N._c. so the specific job that he had was what <hes> Seth job was to work with the legal staff and the technology staff to ensure that we had a mechanism by which we can check people's voter registration status so you can go online click I will vote and you are able to identify whether or not you're registered as well as you know where you might find your polling place. If it was close to election day I I've never encountered someone so genuine and and and his belief debt <hes> every American should be able to participate in that political process so threats with the DNC I think Sullivan was spoken about provisional ballots and rejected ballots here. He is in an an election conference in two thousand fifteen one of the few times. Seth's voice was recorded in a public setting. How do we get better access to data that tells us why ballots rejected why ballots are cast as provisional so that we can analyze that and then develop better at our training guides? Voting rights was a subject that Steph talked about all the time even when he went out for a beer with co workers from the D._N._C.. Like Pablo in Rica's. You guys socialized. You went out drinking at the bar. That's GONNA solve the world's problems this is it. We're like you know talk. Talk Shop Talk About sports talk about what sports the more politics we were. We were really obsessed with politics. At the time his work toward voter expansion was something that he was fired up about making sure people could vote was an issue. They fired him up even more than who thought the party's nominee should be later it would be claimed repeatedly with zero evidence that seth was a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter but we talked to a number of his friends who all told us the same thing Isman Rica's no one could ever remember seth expressing a preference for either candidate. The Seth Rich I knew wasn't focused on Bernie Sanders Hilary Clinton in any more than inasmuch as it didn't relate to his job of expanding the vote he was a patriotic got a guy who just really wanted to make sure that people could vote in a rare interview we spoke with says brother Aaron Rich. You'll hear more from him later but when I asked him about sess passion for politics he told us he he loved it. You know he you had the chance to make the difference he wanted to make but everyone's voice. Be Heard what memories stick out in your mind when you think about your brother and in the the one that comes to mind the most is the you know when I went to visit him in D._C.. Easy and how proud he was for him to be the one to buy dinner and drinks for us because he was just feeling that happy that he was doing something he loved and you know had started fulfilling his dream. Why was oh my gosh? It was huge bigger than say it was the thing that summer seth had gotten a coveted invitation to the Obama White House Fourth of July allies celebration to watch the fireworks his big concern was what do I wear. Can you describe that outfit. Mary Stars Stripes Shoes Stars and stripes socks stars Pants Dan Shirt with both stars and Stripes and sunglasses with Stars and Stripes and he actually added they bore Mogo tie with Stars and Stripes for the White House House party. Unfortunately it rained so it got cancelled so we never got to go to the one ever got to go to the White House about that so the last picture we have of him is walking with the bow tied down that was taken on Fourth of July early on the morning of July tenth while still grappling about the job offer from the Clinton campaign. Seth was headed home after another night lose one of my bartenders who was there that night called me. Joe Capone was then the manager of loose city Bar VIN drinking a little too much yeah he had he had more than as usual that night. I believe is what I was told He. Is there until about one ish. They told me that he was offered a ride home. The was a little bit upset that night. Seth turned the offer down in decided to walk instead was along about two miles to the Bloomingdale neighborhood where he lived and south for reasons that are still unclear took his time making his way home spending most of the next three hours talking on his cellphone. We reviewed his phone records for that morning. There's one twenty one a m a twelve minute call to an old fraternity brother at Creighton at two Oh five and eighty nine minute call to Kelsey Mocha his girlfriend who was at her parents house in Michigan. That call got interrupted at three thirty seven. He was back on the phone with Kelsey this time for nearly forty three minutes. It was the last call he would ever make just before four nineteen seth was across the street from a small convenience store just a block and a half from the group house where he lived two men approached. I gotta go he told Kelsey and then a scuffle what we learn from Kelsey. He was talking to her. She heard some annoys on the phone she said are you okay. Are you home. He says yeah I'm home and then it's I have to call you back. We walked to the corner of flagler and W street with sess neighbor Mark Mueller while he described what he saw that morning. It's about thirty blocks north of the capital but when you see him he's he's literally in the walk way pretty much right smack in the middle ten fifteen feet away with his stomach down his unease on the ground so his back hips were up in the air and his arms were in front of him. You know like what crab claws would be and you could see his fingers. Moving seth was rushed by ambulance to the Washington hospital shower less than a mile away Joel and Mary were told Seth had put up a fight he had bruising on his face he had bruising on his knuckles and he had bruising on his knees so we know he struggled struggled from what we've heard from the detectives. The ended up shot twice in the back. They said he was talking to the officers. When they first got there he was maybe stable when he got to the <music> hospital and things went bad we saw copy his death certificate said cause of death gunshot wounds of torso manner of death homicide the next day the Washington Police Department had a press conference? We're also here to talk to ask for your assistance. In the <hes> murder from yesterday early morning hours <hes> in a twenty one hundred block of flagler place northwest officers monitored the sound of gunshots responded into that area the police had little to go on through some grainy video from the convenience store camera across the street read but all it showed where the legs of two suspects where the confrontation took place and there was a witness who saw two young males running in a westerly direction after the shooting is an active investigation. We're in early stages or we're asking asking for the public's assistance. The cops believed this was a robbery gone bad. We are looking into some robberies that have occurred in that area. We will match the look up to see if that had anything to do with this bird so we are looking into that that summer there had been a rash of armed robberies in the Bloomingdale neighborhood where seth was shot seven of them in the six weeks prior to his shooting. Local residents were up in arms. Here's Mark Mueller again. We've had so many hold ups on the same same corner with the same method of holed up where two guys grab the person they hold a gun to the head while one person takes the phone and makes the owner of the phone go oh into the APPS and unarm anything that could be traced. Now this happened time and time and time and time again Scott Roberts runs the list serve for the Bloomingdale neighborhood. He read us some of the crime alerts he had posted in the weeks before seth's death incidents all within blocks of each other Friday June the twenty fourth and P._d.. Robbery hold of a gun at two o seven hours at first street northwest N._P._D.. Robert Gunn at limb fifty three hours and the two thousand block of flagged place and that's dated Monday June June thirteenth June sixteenth and P._D.. Robbery Gun at twenty fifty eight hours at first at Adam Street northwest by late June residents were demanding increased police presence. We've had meetings with the police screaming gleaming at the police in our civic association meetings begging for help. The protests made the local news the police chief touting robberies across the district down about twenty percent but the reality is that in this northwest neighborhood and bloomingdale robberies are up eighty percent this robbery that and now here's your entry for Sunday July Tenth Okay Sunday July Tenth of two thousand sixteen shooting at flag w street northwest last night. Four nine thousand nine A._M.. No arrests update from a neighbor victim has died. All this activity explains why the DC police was quick to conclude rich was likely the victim of one of the bands of armed robbers running loose in the neighborhood food but there were puzzling aspects from the scene his billfold with his credit cards and his cell phone. We're still in his pocket. A small Gold Hebrew pendant was still around his neck. If this was a robbery why there was nothing taken to question that is hung over the case ever since but it was explainable the cops believed by the likelihood that when seth resisted his assailants panicked shot him and then fled. I will tell tell you I have seen so many robberies gone bad that result in deadly violence when a victim is running away and nothing was taken from the victim Glenn Kirschner spent more than twenty years as a homicide prosecutor in Washington Washington D._C.. Until he retired in two thousand eighteen he didn't work directly on the seth rich case but he knew about it in the office and says the circumstances were not that unusual ear- young man with a gun. You're going to try to steal somebody's Wallet Cell Phone IPAD IPAD. Whatever the victim happens to be carrying you pull the gun? You say the time-tested phrase in D._C.. Is You know what time it is and often victims react not by being compliant and taking their wallet out turning it over they run they lash out they do any number of things and that inspires the impulsive robber to pull triggers and once he pulls the trigger he flees without taking the time to rummage through the victims pocket doc it if I had a dime for every time I've seen that over the twenty two years. I've been prosecuting murder cases in D._C.. You know I would be a little bit wealthier. When it came time to investigate seth riches murder? There was one obvious candidate that eight for the job Deborah signs as far as I can tell they gave you all the tough cases here had my fair share until she retired last year. Signs was something of a legend edge in the US Attorney's office in Washington a gruff fearless prosecutor who handled some of the most grisly murders in the city over the last couple of decades choose put in charge of the rich case and she's talking publicly about it here for the first time what I look at the video surveillance cameras once I figured out what best route was from Columbia high down to where he lives once I saw with ballistics were and weren't I would be heartache was able to say anything to those emergency workers that came to the scene pretty quickly. He could say somewhere somewhere very hard for him to <hes> they. He was very drunk like the police signs was convinced the answer to identifying Seth's killers was to be found in those rash of robberies a crime spree which she says was likely committed by drug-dealing residents in the neighborhood in particular three housing complexes that <hes> I knew had some very dangerous people in what we needed was good drug information catch the guy and in this case signs and the cops didn't have it police are out in the neighborhood tonight. They're passing out. These fliers flyers offering a twenty five thousand dollar reward. They need some help in this one so if you know something give police ah call during back to you we were sent home. I you always met my fearful wings. Come home and he's always received the hobby to say that is exactly how I was giving you my son for his last time coming home. When's the first indication you got that? People were GonNa try and make something more out of this well. We got a lot of calls right. It's I <hes> on Monday from reporters jurors that they were asking. Do you think you have anything to do with him working at the D._N._c. now you know I don't it didn't and it doesn't so it was shot on a Sunday. I think the first thing showed up on facebook or twitter. The next Saturday at quick actually was even quicker than that and how it happened was far more calculated than anybody could could've imagined three days after sess murderer an article appeared on an obscure website called. What does it mean dot com? So what does it mean. Dot Com is a conspiracy say that claims to be run by an ancient order of nuns called. Called the sisters of Sorta Fall Journalist Anna Merlin dissected the seth rich case in a new book called Republic of lies American conspiracy theorists in their surprising rise to power. She was one of the first to pick up on this strange item <music> so on July thirteenth. What does it mean DOT COM reported? Seth rich was on his way to the F. B. I. to testify against Hillary Clinton even though it was four in the morning even though is four in the morning the site also went onto claim that actually the people who he thought were F._B._I.. Agents were really hired. Killers hired by the Clintons while does it sounds the very first seed of seth rich conspiracies had been planted and it raise some tantalizing questions where was this coming from and who was really behind it a secret order of nuns or was it a far more sophisticated sophisticated operation the item from what does it mean dot com got scarcely any attention at the time but it started percolating on sites like four Chan read it where -rageous items or the currency and are often posted anonymously and it soon got the attention of a character whose anything but anonymous welcome to stone cold truth. We're talking about Roger Stone Self style dirty trickster and Donald Trump's longtime political adviser on August ninth at twelve thirty seven A._M.. Stone tweeted a picture of seth describing him as another dead body in the Clintons wake coincidence road stone. I I think not as you'll hear in later episodes stone would become obsessed with the rich case in the weeks and months to come. He and others would recklessly portray SAF as a thief and a leaker and the victim of a dark political murder plot. I would having a really hard time processing at all Debbie. Flax was an old friend of Seth's from Grade School. She was so upset about what was happening to his reputation. She wrote a song a remembrance remembrance of the other Seth Goofball kid the political idealist the gentle soul from Omaha I would thinking about seth then everything that had happened and I finished the song in two days and was just so filled with that confusion and that emotion and that anger that something like this could happen to someone who was such a good person that had just spilled it all in into the song he was a person with family. He's not just some name. That's spiraling conspiracy he he was someone's son. The title of the Song is fly away. We need to let him we need to remember but we need to be able to to let him go in peace aw but there were many more who are determined not to let them go next on Yahoo News is conspiracy Land Julian assange and wikileaks hijack for story of Seth Rich's death. We have to understand how high high the stakes are in the United States and also also face serious risks a Kremlin disinformation campaign swings into high gear Hewitt Clinton religious team in the Senate so that each <hes> prosecutor discovers smoking gun and then I thought Oh my God it is over my pay grade and then I got very paranoid. That's episode to the Russia connection. Thanks for listening to this first episode of Yahoo News Conspiracy Land. We hope you're intrigued enough to stick around for the next five. We need to give a couple of shouts here. I the my Yahoo News colleague Alexander Zarian who thought investigating conspiracies around seth riches murder would be a good idea for a podcast thanks also to my Yahoo News colleagues charity already elder Dan Kleinman and Mark Seaman for their helpful ideas as well as to the folks from long story short media for their invaluable help in producing this podcast young newses conspiracy land is brought to you by skulduggery a weekly podcast that I host with Yahoo Editor and chief Dan Clyde men in each episode we dissect the latest revelations and controversies surrounding the trump administration and we interview key newsmakers including some of the president's fiercest critics as well causes most stalwart defenders. If you're enjoying the series subscribe to skulduggery and Yahoo News is conspiracy land to listen to all our episodes and leave a review.

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