Peter Smith, a longtime Republican operative who allegedly committed suicide 10 days after telling his story to the Wall Street Journal in May 2017, collected $100,000 from four major donors to aid in his search for Hillary Clinton's missing emails. Smith believed Russian hackers had them.
Mr. Smith went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the privacy and secrecy of his projects, according to emails and court records reviewed by the Journal and a person familiar with the matter.
One email showed the anti-Clinton funds referenced as donations that were to be sent to a Washington, D.C.-based scholarship fund for Russian students.
Mr. Smith often communicated with associates using a Gmail account under the name “Robert Tyler” that both he and several others had access to ... He sometimes asked associates to communicate with him by writing a note and saving it the draft folder of the account ...
He also had one phone number that he used for sensitive matters and a commercially available encrypted email account. Hard drives that Mr. Smith’s estate turned over to federal investigators were also encrypted ...
According to an email in the “Robert Tyler” account reviewed by the Journal, Mr. Smith obtained $100,000 from at least four financiers as well as a $50,000 contribution from Mr. Smith himself ...
The email, dated Oct. 11, 2016, in the “Robert Tyler” account, included the subject line “Wire Instructions—Clinton Email Reconnaissance Initiative” and was addressed to Mr. Smith. The writer, who identified himself as “ROB, ” said: “This $100k total with the $50k received from you will allow us to fund the Washington Scholarship Fund for the Russian students for the promised $150K.” The Journal couldn’t determine if such a fund actually exists.
“The students are very pleased with the email releases they have seen, and are thrilled with their educational advancement opportunities,” the email read. Because multiple people had access to the “Robert Tyler” email account, it couldn’t be determined who sent the email to Mr. Smith.
The email about obtaining the pledges came just days after WikiLeaks and the website DCLeaks began releasing emails damaging to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and four days after the U.S. government publicly warned that Russia was attempting to interfere in the U.S. election through the hacking and release of stolen emails and doing so at the direction of the Kremlin’s “senior-most officials.” ...
In addition to giving hard drives to the House and Senate intelligence committees, which are also investigating election interference by Russia, Mr. Smith’s estate has given documents to Mr. Mueller’s team ... Associates of Mr. Smith have been interviewed by investigators or summoned before a grand jury as recently as this summer ... BuzzFeed has also reported that Mr. Smith’s bank transfers are under scrutiny.
John Szobocsan, a business associate of Mr. Smith, appeared before a federal grand jury in August ... Mr. Szobocsan, who emails show was involved in Mr. Smith’s pursuit of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, also was interviewed by Mr. Mueller’s team three times earlier in the year, according to court records that were reviewed by the Journal.
The focus from investigators on Mr. Smith’s quest to obtain Mrs. Clinton’s emails may be especially significant because Mr. Smith had implied in conversations with people in his circle and others he tried to recruit to help that he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the time a senior adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, the Journal has reported.
Retired Wall Street financier Charles Ortel said he spoke with Mr. Smith on the phone in the hours before his death about a new project to brief the Obama Foundation and warn its leaders against the mistakes they believed were made by the Clinton Foundation. According to Mr. Ortel, Mr. Smith sounded excited, and he began brainstorming who to contact and how to proceed.
“I came away from that conversation saying this is great. We’re going to make progress,” said Mr. Ortel, who had previously communicated with Mr. Smith about efforts to obtain Clinton’s emails but was not one of the four people named in the email account as financial contributors. He said he was stunned when news outlets reported that Mr. Smith had taken his life shortly after their conversation.
GOP Operative Secretly Raised at Least $100,000 in Search for Clinton Emails (WSJ) *Note: All WSJ articles appear behind a paywall