03 August, 2017
But the timing set off a conspiracy theory among Trump supporters and those on the far right: that Rich's death was somehow arranged by Democratic officials as payback for his leak of thousands of DNC emails and electronic files to WikiLeaks, which published them.
Wheeler also alleges that a Fox News reporter made up quotes attributed to him as part of its reporting on the Rich case.
"Zimmerman and Butowsky, it is claimed, sought to advance the political agenda of the Trump administration by asking Wheeler to confirm that "Rich was responsible for the leak of DNC emails to WikiLeaks", and "[he] was murdered by a Democrat operative because he leaked the emails to WikiLeaks".
"The motivation behind the article: Establish that Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC e-mails to shift the blame from Russian Federation and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russian Federation in an attempt to influence the outcome (of the 2016 election)", the court papers allege.
After the article with the fabricated quotes was published, according to the lawsuit, Wheeler met with executives at Fox News and "explained to Ms. Brandi and Mr. Wallace that he had not provided Zimmerman with the quotations she used in her article". "Rod Wheeler is dead broke", Butowsky began before offering to send anchor Chris Cuomo text messages from Wheeler asking to help get him a White House job. It quoted Wheeler - who has worked as a Fox News contributor - as a primary source for the allegation.
According to Wheeler, he and Butowsky met with former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer before the story was published. Wheeler has made contradictory statements regarding the case and is simultaneously filing a racial discrimination lawsuit against the network, represented by a lawyer who has other lawsuits against Fox. "We have the full attention of the White House on this", he told Wheeler in one message, shortly before the meeting with Spicer. Butowsky told the outlet that he did not share a draft with Trump and he was "joking" about the president's involvement.
US Sanctions On Russia Could Be "Wide And Indiscriminate"
Before Trump definitively takes a decision it is too early to talk about any potential counter measure from Moscow, Peskov said. European business was considerably alarmed by the situation with the anti-Russian sanctions , the Russian envoy said.
Rich was shot and killed near his Washington, D.C. apartment last June, less than two weeks before 19,000 DNC emails were published on WikiLeaks. "But don't feel the pressure", Butowsky wrote to Wheeler in a text, the lawsuit said.
Asked about the meeting in April by NPR, Spicer replied that he agreed to the meeting as a favor to Butowsky and was unaware of any contact between Butowsky and the president. The lawsuit alleges that the Fox stories also included fabricated quotes from Wheeler himself.
But Wheeler says his reputation has been damaged because Fox didn't bother clearing his name and "never admitted that Zimmerman had misquoted him".
Trump is also said to have pushed for the report in order to distract attention away from the investigation into his campaign's collusion with the Russian's during the 2016 presidential election. He says he got involved after being contacted by a well connected Republican donor and trump supporter.
"It's not like I have a Steve Bannon teddy bear", Butowsky said in May. "He wants the article out immediately".