by WorldTribune Staff, July 16, 2017
A longtime Republican researcher, who sought to obtain Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 deleted emails and was a key source in the “Troopergate” scandal that nearly derailed Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, died in what media reports termed a suicide.
According to public records obtained by the Chicago Tribune, Peter W. Smith, 81, left a suicide note and was found with a bag over his head and a helium source on May 14, just 10 days after he gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal.
Smith wrote two blog posts dated the day before he was found dead, the Chicago Tribune reported.
One challenged U.S. intelligence agency findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. Another post predicted: “As attention turns to international affairs, as it will shortly, the Russian interference story will die of its own weight.”
In his suicide note, according to police, Smith wrote that he decided to take his life due to “recent bad turn in health since January, 2017” and because his $5 million life insurance policy was expiring. Smith also wrote that “no foul play whatsoever” led to his death. Smith’s cause of death was listed as “asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in confined space with helium.”
Shane Harris, the Journal reporter who interviewed Smith, said that he “had no indication that [Smith] was ill or planning to take his own life.”
Smith was a key source in the Journal’s exclusive story which showed that, in his pursuit of Clinton’s 30,000 deleted emails, Smith reached out to multiple hacker groups, including at least two that he suspected had ties to the Russian government.
Smith, who told the Journal he was not part of the Trump campaign, is reported to have mentioned Mike Flynn’s name when contacting the Russian hackers, claiming that he was in contact with the future national security adviser about his hunt for the emails.
“He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this – if you find anything, can you let me know?’ ” Eric York, a computer-security expert who hunted hacker forums for potential leads on the emails, told the Journal.
“We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government,” Smith said in the interview with the Journal.
In the early ’90s, Smith played a key role in publicizing accusations by Arkansas state troopers that Bill Clinton, then the state’s governor, had enlisted them to help arrange meetings with dozens of women who were not his wife, from whom they hid the alleged affairs (an accusation that Clinton, as a candidate and as president, denied).