GOP operative Peter W. Smith, the man who launched an independent effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s missing emails from Russian hackers and spoke about it an interview with the Wall Street Journal, was found dead just days after that in a hotel in Rochester, Minnesota.
He was 81, so people assumed he died of natural causes, but new evidence shows that he likely killed himself.
On Thursday, the Chicago Tribune obtained a Minnesota state death record which indicated that Smith’s death was a suicide. He was found with his head covered with a bag, which was attached to a helium tank on May 14. The death record said that Smith died of “asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in confined space with helium.”
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) July 14, 2017
Rochester police said that they found a suicide note in which Smith apologized to authorities and stated 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.”
According to the WSJ articles, on Labor Day weekend last year Smith assembled a team to acquire emails the team theorized might have been stolen from the private server Clinton had used while secretary of state.
Believing the missing emails might have been obtained by Russian hackers, Smith suspected that the correspondence related to Clinton’s official duties. He told the Journal that he and his team found five groups of hackers — two of them Russian groups — that claimed to have Clinton’s missing emails.
An expert in opposition research, Smith had previously investigated former Democratic President Bill Clinton and was involved in exposing the “Troopergate” allegations about Bill Clinton’s sex life.
Rochester police Chief Roger Peterson on Wednesday called Smith’s manner of death “unusual,” but a funeral home worker said he’d seen it before.
“When I got there and saw the tank, I thought, ‘I’ve seen this before,’ and was able to put two and two together,” the employee said.
Peter Smith wrote two blog posts dated the day before he was found dead. 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.”
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