Isikoff, Who First Peddled The Fake Steele Dossier, Invents New ‘Russian Influence’ Story

10 July 2019 — Moon of Alabama

Michael Isikoff was the first reporter who peddled the fake Steele dossier about alleged Russian influence over Donald Trump. He later admitted that the claims therein were ‘likely false’. Today Isikoff came up with a new fake story about ‘Russian influence’.

Isikoff claims that the conspiracy theory, that Seth Rich, a DNC staffer, was killed because he stole the DNC emails which Wikileaks later published, was planted by Russia’s foreign intelligence service.

Exclusive: The true origins of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory.

WASHINGTON — In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump’s White House, a Yahoo News investigation has found.

Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony “bulletin” — disguised to read as a real intelligence report —about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol.

Isikoff points to the whacky website WhatDoesItMean.com. On July 13 2016 it published this:

A somber Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) report circulating in the Kremlin today says that a top American Democratic Party staffer preparing to testify against Hillary Clinton was assassinated this past Sunday during a secret meeting in Washington D.C. he believed he was having with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, but who turned out, instead, to be a “hit team”—and who, in turn, were captured yesterday after a running gun battle with US federal police forces just blocks from the White House.

According to this report, SVR “electronic specialists” performing counter intelligence “missions/operations” noted on 7 July an “enormous/gigantic” increase of computer and telephonic traffic between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters in Washington D.C. and the Clinton Foundation (CF) offices in New York City.

That report, says Isikoff, was planted by the SVR and was the first to make the connection between the murder of Seth Rich and his work at the Democrat National Councils (DNC).

Isikoff also quotes Deborah Sines, “the former assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Rich case until her retirement last year”:

In her efforts to better understand where the conspiracy theories were coming from, Sines used her security clearance to access copies of two SVR intelligence reports about Seth Rich that had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials. She later wrote a memo documenting the Russian role in fomenting the conspiracy theories that she sent to the Justice Department’s national security division, and personally briefed special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors on her findings.

It is doubtful that Mrs. Sines security clearance allows her to publicize what SVR intelligence reports, or phony SVR bulletins, U.S. intelligence services intercept and read.

The claim that ‘Russia’ started the Seth Rich conspiracy story via that whacky website can be easily debunked. That websites version, that Seth Rich was supposed to meat FBI agents, never gained credence. It was also not the first, as Isikoff claims.

Washington Post reporter Philip Bump finds that at least six U.S. persons publicly made claims that connected the Seth Rich murder to Hillary Clinton before the whacky website published its version. That is not astonishing at all. The idea of a ‘Clinton body count‘ has been around for decades.

Isikoff also claims that ‘Russian trolls’ pushed the story:

At the same time, online trolls working in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) — the same shadowy outfit that conducted the Russian social media operation during the 2016 election — aggressively boosted the conspiracy theories. IRA-created fake accounts, masquerading as those of American citizens or political groups, tweeted and retweeted more than 2,000 times about Rich, helping to keep the bogus claims about his death in the social media bloodstream, according to an analysis of a database of Russia troll accounts by Yahoo News.

But Philip Bump finds a different number:

A search of the Russian tweets conducted by The Post finds only 640 tweets mentioning “Seth Rich.”

Most of those tweets came well after the election.

More than half of the IRA tweets on Seth Rich were sent in August 2017. They came after Fox News and Steve Bannon had publicly peddled the conspiracy theory.

The IRA is a commercial advertisement company. Its fictitious online personalities create web traffic to sell ads. That activity has nothing to do with the Russian government. In the criminal case against the IRA owner Concord a federal judge recently confirmed that there is no evidence that connects the IRA activity to the Russian government. The judge criticizes that the Mueller investigation made the claim:

In short, the Court concludes that the government violated Rule 57.7 by making or authorizing the release of public statements that linked the defendants’ alleged activities to the Russian government and provided an opinion about the defendants’ guilt and the evidence against them. The Court will therefore proceed to consider the appropriate response to that violation, beginning with the possibility of contempt.

That Seth Rich was wacked because he stole the DNC emails and transferred them to Wikileaks is a conspiracy theory. It is possible and even plausible, but there is no evidence to confirm it. Many people seem to believe it because it makes more sense than the competing conspiracy theory, that Russia hacked the DNC and handed the emails to Wikileaks. Isikoff’s claim, that Russia planted the Rich conspiracy theory, has no sound base. That theory existed before anything ‘Russian’ mentioned it.

Philip Bump concludes:

It’s eternally tempting to suggest that out-there ideas like the Rich conspiracies were a function of nefarious external actors like Russian intelligence officials. That text from Bannon, though, underlines the more anodyne truth: It was politically useful for a number of people to hype the allegations at the expense of Rich’s reputation.

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