Trump Interested in Seth Rich Conspiracy, New Report Says

President Donald J. Trump loves a good conspiracy theory. He spent much of Barack Obama's eight years in office suggesting that the president had been born outside the United States. That claim, with its obvious racial overtones, raised Trump's profile with the nativist wing of the Republican Party, giving him the necessary credibility to launch a presidential campaign in 2015.

During the Republican presidential primary, he suggested that the father of Senator Ted R. Cruz, the Republican from Texas, was somehow involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Later yet, after his Republican foes had been vanquished, he charged that his general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, "meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors."

The statement suggested a fickle affinity for conspiracy theories that would be difficult for a 71-year-old to temper, even if his newfound political power may have called for a more restrained approach to unsubstantiated innuendo. Trump has carried the conspiratorial mind-set into the Oval Office, tweeting about illegal Obama wiretaps of Trump Tower and worrying about Deep State coups against his administration.

It is no surprise, then, that the president might be interested in the case of Seth Rich, which has animated the extreme right with its lurid—if utterly unfounded—intimations of global conspiracy. Rich was a 27-year-old employee of the Democratic National Committee who was killed as he walked home from a bar early in Washington, D.C., on the morning of July 10, 2016. Twelve days later, WikiLeaks, the information clearinghouse operated by Julian Assange, published Clinton campaign emails that had been stolen by an unidentified hacker. The emails portrayed both Clinton and the DNC in an unflattering manner, boosting the narrative that Clinton was an inherently untrustworthy political insider who felt entitled to the White House.

To some, however, there were more nefarious forces at work. Rich had been shot twice, but his belongings were not taken. Nor were any suspects identified by law enforcement. That led some to conclude that Rich had, in fact, been the "leaker" who gave Assange the Clinton emails.

There is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim, but it is nevertheless attractive to some supporters of President Trump, who disbelieve the overwhelming evidence that Russian hackers stole Clinton's emails because they sought to have Trump elected. To this cohort of true believers, Rich's involvement in the DNC scandal exculpates Trump from any collusion with Russia. Even more troublingly—if even less convincingly—this narrative suggests that Rich was murdered by Democratic operatives wanting to punish him for his anti-Clinton act of sabotage.

Again, there is no evidence for these assertions. They nevertheless persist.

The most eager proponent of this theory was Sean Hannity, the prime time Fox News pundit who is perhaps Trump's most vociferous defender. For a brief time last spring, Hannity touted the suggestion that Rich was involved in the DNC hack. He abruptly stopped discussing the matter as a social-media campaign aimed at his advertisers seemed to imperil his standing at the network.

Hannity and Trump are said to talk regularly. Trump is also friends with Rupert Murdoch, the chief of Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox. According to a lawsuit filed by a private investigator last summer, the White House worked with Fox News on its reporting of the Rich murder. The intention, according to the lawsuit, was to foster a sense of conspiracy around Rich's murder and therefore distract the public from the widening investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia.

Now comes a report that indicates that Trump has shown a renewed interest in the Rich case. The report was published Wednesday on Big League Politics, a far-right outlet that has a clear pro-Trump bias. Media Bias/Fact Check, an online organization that monitors the credibility of news outlets, rates Big League Politics as "mixed" in its reporting of facts.

The new Rich report was written by Cassandra Fairbanks, a well-known figure in far-right social media circles. Fairbanks writes that a "source familiar with the president's inquiries confirmed" that Trump "has been asking those he trusts for a read on the Seth Rich murder case."

Fairbanks adds that "the source explained while people close to the president have been attempting to shield him from the controversy surrounding the murder, their efforts have been unsuccessful."

The White House did not answer a Newsweek request asking for confirmation or denial of the assertions made in the Big League Politics report.

The president has continued to claim that it was the Democrats who colluded with Russia. And he has continued to call Clinton by the nickname he gave her during the campaign: Crooked Hillary.