The Slatest

GOP Operative Killed Himself Days After Disclosing He Solicited Clinton Emails From Russian Hackers

A man stands behind a Russian flag.

AFP/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported the early threads of a story that looked to be a potential blockbuster in the making: a longtime GOP operative and private equity executive out of Chicago, in September 2016, two months before Election Day, had been shopping around in the dark corners of the web for thousands of deleted emails belonging to Hillary Clinton. During the search, in emails and on the phone, the 81-year-old operative, Peter W. Smith, presented himself as working with top Trump adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as he solicited Clinton emails from hackers he assumed to be affiliated with the Russian government. The Journal knew all of this because Smith, himself, said so in an interview with the paper the first week of May.

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On May 14th, some ten days after the interview, but still six weeks before the WSJ story went to print, Smith was found dead in Minnesota. The Journal article mentions Smith’s death in passing, noting that his interview appeared to be his only public comment on his subversive hunt for dirt on Hillary Clinton. The story’s author, Shane Harris, said later during a podcast interview that he had no reason to suspect that foul play was involved. The Chicago Tribune followed up on the story of Smith’s death and got hold of the Minnesota state death record that said Smith had killed himself and was “found with a bag over his head with a source of helium attached” in a hotel near the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

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From the Tribune:

In the note recovered by police, Smith apologized to authorities and said that “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER” was involved in his death. He wrote that he was taking his own life because of a “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017” and timing related “TO LIFE INSURANCE OF $5 MILLION EXPIRING.”

Since we live in surreal, conspiratorial times, it will not surprise you that some see a conspiracy in the timing and nature of Smith’s death. Is there something to it or is this the stuff of Info Wars? There’s no evidence to suggest anything other than the official coroner’s report. But, at the very least, as far as coincidences go, it’s a doozy, particularly at a time where everything Trump-related appears simultaneously fishy and numbingly mundane. It’s unclear what, if any treatment Smith was receiving at the Mayo Clinic, although a former Smith employee told the Tribune he believed the 81-year-old was seeking treatment for a heart condition.

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