Lawsuit accuses White House of working with Fox News on false story

The lawsuit claims Donald Trump wanted the story published to divert attention from the widening investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia

Trump told Fox News to run Seth Rich conspiracy story, lawsuit alleges

Jay Wallace, president of News for Fox News, said in a statement to USA TODAY, "The accusation that FoxNews.com published Malia Zimmerman's story to help detract from coverage of the Russian Federation collusion issue is completely erroneous".

The Trump White House was involved with concocting a Fox News article that linked the death of a Jewish Democratic National Committee aide with WikiLeaks, according to a lawsuit filed by a private investigator who repeatedly discussed the case on Fox News.

"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 case has been seized upon by conspiracy fabulists, resulting in unsupported claims that Rich - rather than the perp fingered by the United States intelligence community, Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU - leaked the DNC emails that contributed to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's election loss a year ago.

"Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article", Butowsky, a Texas financial adviser and donor, allegedly said in an email.

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The suit also claims that Ed Butowsi, a wealthy Trump supporter and also a Fox commentator, coordinated the effort by the President and Fox to publish the story. He wants the article out immediately.

Wheeler claims that he and Butowsky met with Sean Spicer, a former White House spokesman, on April 20 and gave him notes of all the information he had gathered regarding the case up to that point.

Fox says it is investigating the story. FoxNews.com ran and later retracted the story, but Sean Hannity pushed it on his show, even after the retraction.

"It doesn't bother me that the press secretary would take a meeting with somebody involved in the media about a story", Sanders said during a Tuesday press conference, further denying any involvement by Trump.

When Wheeler asked to have his statements removed from the story, Butowsky told him "the quotes were included because that is the way the President (Trump) wanted the article", Wheeler charges. "But don't feel the pressure", the text said.

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Wallace also told NPR that there is no "concrete evidence" that Wheeler was misquoted by Zimmerman.

Butowsky suspended his Twitter account this morning because, according to New York Magazine correspondent Olivia Nuzzi, "people are so mean".

Wheeler's lawsuit does say that Butowsky and Zimmerman "on behalf of Mr. Wheeler, drafted a response to the Rich family's statements". Wigdor said this would include the president and Spicer.

The thrust of Wheeler's lawsuit rests on the idea that Fox News falsely said that he believed there was a connection between murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Trump had "no knowledge" of the Fox story, and called it "completely untrue" that the White House helped develop it. Spicer admitted to a brief meeting but also denied any White House role, The Washington Post reported.

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