Back in June we noted a Wall Street Journal story about a longtime Republican operative from Chicago’s North Shore, Peter W. Smith, who apparently set out on a private mission to track down Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails. Here's how we described the story at the time:
To summarize the 'bombshell', the story is about a long-time Republican opposition researcher, 81-year-old Peter W. Smith, who apparently set out on a mission to find Hillary's 30,000 emails which the FBI confirmed had gone missing. In his efforts to find those emails, he scoured hacking chat rooms looking for clues and/or hackers that might be able to help him. The WSJ alleges that Smith may or may not have been working with Michael Flynn but, in the end, they found absolutely nothing. To summarize even further, a guy tried to find Hillary's missing emails and failed...HALT THE PRESSES!
Now, the WSJ is back with an update suggesting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is interested in learning more about how/if Michael Flynn may have assisted Peter Smith in his search.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is examining what role, if any, former national security adviser Mike Flynn may have played in a private effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, according to people familiar with the matter.
The effort to seek out hackers who were believed to have stolen Mrs. Clinton’s emails, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was led by a longtime Republican activist, Peter W. Smith. In correspondence and conversations with his colleagues, Mr. Smith portrayed Mr. Flynn as an ally in those efforts and implied that other senior Trump campaign officials were coordinating with him, which they have denied. He also named Mr. Flynn’s consulting firm and his son in the correspondence and conversations.
The special counsel is investigating potential coordination between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
Of course, even if Flynn did assist in attempts to track down Hillary's missing emails, it's unclear how exactly that is different from someone hiring Fusion GPS in attempts to track down dirt on President Trump. While paying someone explicitly to hack into a computer network is obviously illegal, that is not what is alleged to have happened in this case as Smith was simply trying to track down information that many speculated had already been obtained...which is no different from what the media does on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, the story of Mr. Smith took an even more bizarre twist when he committed suicide shortly after exposing his apparently unsuccessful attempts to find Hillary's emails. Smith is thought to have committed suicide due to an ongoing health problem. Here's an excerpt from our previous post:
Smith was found with a bag over his head with a source of helium attached. A medical examiner's report gives the same account, without specifying the time, and a report from the Rochester, Minnesota police further details his suicide, according to the Chicago Tribune. Smith's death occurred at the Aspen Suites in Rochester, records show. They list the cause of death as "asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in confined space with helium."
In the note recovered by police, Smith apologized to authorities and said 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."
Mystery shrouded how and where Smith had died, but the lead reporter on the stories said on a podcast he had no reason to believe the death was the result of foul play and that Smith likely had died of natural causes.
Smith had been staying at the hotel – in a room typically used by patients of the Mayo Clinic - for several days and had extended his stay at least once but was expected to check out on the day his body was found. "Tomorrow is my last day," Smith told a hotel worker on May 13 while he worked on a computer in the business center, printing documents, according to the police reports.
One of Smith's former employees told the Tribune he thought the elderly man had gone to the famed clinic to be treated for a heart condition. Mayo spokeswoman Ginger Plumbo said Thursday she could not confirm Smith had been a patient, citing medical privacy laws.
Smith had a history of doing opposition research against President Bill Clinton and had a hand in exposing the “Troopergate” allegations about Bill Clinton's sex life.
Needless to say, it could be a good sign for the Trump administration if this is truly the best thing that Special Counsel Mueller has to spend his time on.