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.

The special counsel’s report confirmed this week that Seth Rich, a young Democratic National Committee employee whose unsolved killing became grist for a right-wing conspiracy theory, was not the source of thousands of internal D.N.C. emails that WikiLeaks released during the 2016 presidential race, officially debunking a notion that had persisted without support for years.

Tucked amid hundreds of pages of the report’s main findings, the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took aim at WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, for falsely implying that Mr. Rich was somehow involved in the dissemination of the emails, an act that aided President Trump’s campaign.

“WikiLeaks and Assange made several public statements apparently designed to obscure the source of the materials that WikiLeaks was releasing,” according to the report, which showed that WikiLeaks corresponded with the true source of the leaked emails — Russian hackers — after Mr. Rich’s death.

The confirmation comes after years of anguish for Mr. Rich’s family, who fought attempts to politicize and spread misinformation about his killing, which is believed to have happened during a bungled robbery attempt.

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