A Republican Party operative who said he tried to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers committed suicide days after speaking to The Wall Street Journal, records acquired by the Chicago Tribune show.
Peter W. Smith, an 81-year-old GOP donor from Chicago, was found dead in a Rochester, Minnesota hotel room on May 14. The Tribune obtained a state death record stating Smith committed suicide in the hotel on the date.
The Journal reported that Smith, a longtime opposition researcher for the GOP, “mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen by Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers” and implied he was working with Gen. Michael Flynn, then a senior adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump.
Smith said he had created a team to find the emails that might have been stolen by hackers during Clinton’s tenure as U.S. Secretary of State, although the Journal reported Smith was focused on obtaining the 30,000 emails Clinton claimed she deleted because they were personal.
In Smith’s hotel room, he left a “statement police called a suicide note in which he said he was in ill health and a life insurance policy was expiring,” the Tribune reported.
His death, which a police chief called “unusual,” had been recorded as “asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in a confined space with helium.” Smith was found with a bag over his head and a helium source attached.
According to the Tribune, Smith wrote two blog posts before his death: one challenging the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and another “predicting” that "the Russian interference story will die of its own weight."