On July 10, 2016, at about 4 a.m., 26-year-old Seth Rich was murdered in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington not far from his home. The perpetrator shot Rich twice in the back and took nothing from him. Lacking any other useful explanation, the police called it a botched robbery. Nearly 16 months later, the crime remains unsolved.
Rich worked as a data director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Twelve days after his death, Wikleaks began releasing emails pilfered from the DNC. The major media reacted violently to the speculation that Rich might have been providing data to WikiLeaks, so violently that discussion of Rich’s murder as anything but a botched robbery became all but taboo, even on Fox News.
Then, surprisingly, former DNC head Donna Brazile resurrected Rich’s memory in her provocative new memoir, Hacks. She even dedicates the book to “my DNC colleague and patriot, Seth Rich,” and mentions him on 11 different occasions.
What makes the attention all the more inexplicable is that Brazile and her “colleague” Rich do not appear to have worked together. Brazile moved into her office at the DNC after Rich was murdered. She tells the reader nothing about any time they may have spent together other than that she “helped keep him [at the DNC] working on voting rights.”
Brazile had been a vice-chair of the DNC before she was named at interim chair, but she is at pains throughout the book to minimize her involvement with DNC operations lest she assume responsibility for the mess she inherited when she took over in late July 2016.
Brazile is not convinced that Seth Rich’s murder was a botched robbery and says as much. “With all I knew about the Russians’ hacking,” she writes, “I could not help but wonder if they had played some part in his unsolved murder.” Brazile saw Russians everywhere. When she found a bag of donuts on her doorsteps, she wondered whether the Russians had put them there.
More reasonably, Brazile speculates, “Racial tensions were high that summer and I worried that he was murdered for being white on the wrong side of town.”
In October 2016, Brazile recounts how Bernie Sanders surprised her by asking about Seth Rich. She attributes his renewed interest to an interview with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. As she explains, a few weeks earlier a Dutch television reporter asked Assange about Rich’s death, and he said cryptically, “Our sources take risks.” When pressed, Assange added, “We do not talk about our sources. We have to understand how high the stakes are in this case.”
Brazile dismisses this possibility as a “conspiracy theory,” but it makes more sense than that the Russians would murder a DNC staffer “working on voting rights.”
In November, after the election, Brazile helped Rich’s parents put up posters around DC offering a $20,000 reward for Rich’s killer. “We had pledged then that we would not allow Seth’s death to become another DC police cold case.”
Brazile, who is very sly with her language, observes, “Some Trump supporters were promoting the baseless conspiracy theory that Seth had been murdered by the DNC because he was the one who had leaked our emails to WikiLeaks.”
The key phrase here is “murdered by the DNC.” No one really speculated that DNC staffers murdered Rich. Murder is not in their line of work. People did speculate, and with some reason, that Rich was one of Assange’s sources, and he was murdered because of it.
Throughout the book, as she does here, Brazile plays a double game. On the surface are words meant to soothe her Democratic colleagues. Just beneath it is a reservoir of doubt and speculation.
If Brazile had not re-opened the Seth Rich mystery, had not re-introduced Assange, no one would have. She had to know that.