Report: GOP operative who thought hackers had Clinton's missing emails took his own life

A computer.
(Image credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images)

The Republican operative and financier who told The Wall Street Journal in May about his attempts to get Hillary Clinton's missing emails from Russian hackers before the 2016 presidential election died by suicide just a few days after his interview, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Public records obtained by the Tribune show that Peter Smith, 81, was found deceased in a Rochester, Minnesota, hotel room. His cause of death is listed as "asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in confined space with helium." Police discovered a note in the room that said there was "no foul play whatsoever" and he decided to take his own life because of a "recent bad turn in health since January 2017" and he had a "life insurance policy of $5 million expiring."

Smith spoke with the Journal in early May, and when the paper published its story in late June, it noted that Smith died on May 14, days after his interview. He told the Journal he believed that emails Clinton said she deleted because they contained personal information actually were related to her official duties, and he had a hunch Russian hackers had those messages. The Journal also reported that Smith wrote emails to people working with him referring to Michael Flynn, then an adviser to Donald Trump and later his national security adviser for a brief time, as an ally. At the time the story was released, a Journal reporter who spoke with Smith said they believed he had died of natural causes.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.