A GOP donor and opposition researcher who said he tried to work with Russian hackers to retrieve deleted emails from a private server used by Hillary Clinton, has died in a suicide, according to public records cited in a Chicago Tribune report.
Peter Smith killed himself days after an interview with The Wall Street Journal in which he said he sought out Russian hackers to try to retrieve some 33,000 deleted Clinton emails and pass them to Michael Flynn, then a campaign adviser to Donald Trump.
Death records from Minnesota show that Smith, 81, died in a hotel of "asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in confined space with helium" on May 14. Smith was found with a note that said there was "NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER" regarding his death.
Smith also apologized to the authorities for his death and attributed his final decision to a "recent bad turn in health," according to the records cited by the Tribune, which reported that he also said his $5 million life insurance policy was close to expiring.
The Mayo Clinic located near the hotel in Rochester, Minnesota, declined to confirm whether Smith was a patient, the Tribune said. Smith's former associates reportedly said he was suffering from health issues and frequently complained of heart problems.
Smith gave his interview to The Journal 10 days before his death. He said he had assembled a group seeking to obtain emails Clinton deleted from the private server she used during her tenure as secretary of state. Smith implied that, when reaching out to several hacking groups, he was working with Flynn. Details on whether Flynn was involved in Smith's mission are not known. Smith told The Journal he knew Flynn but did not say whether Flynn was involved.
Smith's account is consistent with the findings from US investigators examining Russia's involvement in the 2016 US presidential election, according to sources cited by The Journal. Reports compiled by intelligence agencies say Russian hackers discussed ways to acquire emails from Clinton's server and give them to Flynn through an intermediary.
Clinton's emails were a major talking point for Trump and his surrogates during the 2016 presidential campaign, one that only escalated after the FBI recommended that prosecutors not bring charges against Clinton.
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