Dueling Narratives

You might have missed it, given all the clutter of ongoing and newly breaking stories about President Donald Trump and Russia and what the president calls “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia,” but there was also an interesting report in the news about the very mysterious case of Seth Rich.
Unless you occasionally visit the more conspiracy-minded corners of the media you also might not have heard of Rich, but he was a 27-year-old staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was shot to death at close range as he walked home from a nightclub in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood on the night of July 10, 2016. There was no apparent motive for the murder, as his wallet and expensive watch and other valuable items remained on his body, but rumors soon began circulating that he had leaked the embarrassing DNC e-mails that were published on WikiLeaks just 12 days later, which immediately showed up in every newspaper during a stretch of the presidential election, which if true suggests a plausible motive to the more conspiracy-minded types.
The national press has treated the murder as a local crime story, but the D.C. press has been forced to treat it as such, however, and on Tuesday the local Fox News affiliate story ran a story that quoted both an unnamed and named source claiming to have information that Rich did indeed pass over some 44,000 e-mails to WikiLeaks. The unnamed source is said to be a federal official, the named source is a private investigator who claims to have been acting at the request of the victim’s family, and one needn’t be very conspiracy-minded to admit that it could be true. That was enough for Sean Hannity to devote a portion of his radio talk show to matter as did our afternoon chores, and the commenters were quick to pounce on it as proof of yet another Hillary Clinton murder at one of the conservative news sites we visit. Even The Washington Post had to weigh in the local crime story, and acknowledge the sources of the Fox report, as well as the fact there are no other convincing theories of the crime.. Those hoping for something to talk about besides the Russia thing with Trump and Russia thought they had an opening.
Alas, The Post led with the impeccably-sourced fact that the victim’s family is angrily denying every word of it, and describing the private investigator as a political operative who had preyed on the family, then going on to mention that the local cops and the Federal Bureau of Investigation both deny the existence of the smoking-gun laptop computer that both of the original story’s sources describe. The national Fox News operation published a story of its own that read pretty much the same way, too, and unless you were checking on certain news sources the matter probably escaped your attention.
Meanwhile, the stories about the Russia thing with Trump and Russia proliferated like the weeds on our lawn. The firing of the FBI director who was leading the agency’s investigation and the various White House explanations for it was followed by the claims that Trump had blabbed some secret information to a couple of Russian officials who were invited to the Oval Office, and that rolled into the latest claim that the fired FBI director wrote up a memo about Trump had asked him to quash an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who had resigned after it was revealed he had lied about his contacts with, of all people, the Russians.
There’s even something about possible White House tapes, which is a phrase that sends a chill down the spine of any Republican old enough to remember the Watergate days. The bad news cycle has also included some embarrassingly believable stories about screaming matches in the president’s meetings with his communications staff, some prominent Republicans admitting that it doesn’t look good and, and the inescapable sense that it really does look pretty bad.
These are crazy times, though, and that Clinton woman and her hound dog husband were pretty darned awful, so it might turn out that unfortunate Rich fellow really did leak all those e-mails and was whacked by the Democratic presidential nominee in a futile retaliation, and the “deep state” has been covering it up, and Trump and Russia are entirely blameless. That’d be a hell of deus ex machina, though, and for now the White House will probably have to keep coming up with those evolving explanations. We wish them luck, because for now we can’t imagine how anyone’s going to come out of this looking good, and can only convey our best wishes to the family and friends of Seth Rich.</div>.

— Bud Norman

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