New and disturbing details arose about the death of the central figure in a Wall Street Journal story attempting to establish another thread in the narrative of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Peter W. Smith, who was attempting to obtain 33,000 deleted Hillary Clinton emails from hackers who claimed to have them, committed suicide ten days after contacting the Wall Street Journal.
While the timetable of his death was public, the manner of his death had not been reported previously.
Law enforcement officials say that there’s no reason to believe foul play was involved, since he left a suicide note and gave his reasoning for taking his own life, but the coincidence has inspired conspiracy theorists.
Smith told the Wall Street Journal that he had made contact with several hackers on the “dark net,” an obscure and underground portion of the internet, who claimed they could produce the storied 33,000 deleted emails from Hillary Clinton’s servers.
During the campaign when she was ordered by the State Department to divulge her emails, Clinton destroyed 33,000 emails saying they were inconsequential and of a personal nature. Some have theorized that the deleted emails likely contained damning evidence against her.
Smith was a Republican donor from Chicago, but was in failing health at age 81. His suicide note read, “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER,” and Smith blamed a “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017” for his suicide. Also related was a life insurance policy worth $5 million but that was expiring, according to the note.
While he told the Wall Street Journal that he was working independently from the Trump campaign to obtain the emails, he also said that Trump transition member Michael Flynn had expressed interest in his findings.
The cause of death was listed as, “asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in confined space with helium.” He was found in a Minnesota hotel near the Mayo Clinic, leading some to believe he was receiving treatment at the medical office.
Smith told the Post that he believed some of the hackers he was in contact with were Russian.