A longtime Republican operative, who claimed that he was working with Donald Trump's disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, tried during last year's presidential campaign to get a hold of emails deleted by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton — emails that the operative believed had been stolen by hackers, according to a bombshell Wall Street Journal report published online Thursday afternoon.
The operative, 81-year-old Peter W. Smith of Chicago, told the Journal about his quest to gain possession of the emails in an interview granted in early May of this year. About 10 days after speaking to Journal reporters, Smith — a venture capitalist and corporate raider — died. But the operation he described to the reporters "is consistent with information that has been examined by U.S. investigators probing Russian interference in the elections," Journal reporter Shane Harris wrote in the lengthy article.
Flynn was forced to resign from the Trump administration after just a few weeks, over his financial ties to the Russian government which he failed to report as required during the transition period following the 2016 presidential election.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, investigators probing the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russian operations designed to sway the election in Trump's favor "have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton's server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary."
Read the entire Wall Street Journal report, "GOP Operative Sought Clinton Emails From Hackers, Implied a Connection to Flynn," by accessing this link.
Flynn would not comment to the Journal on Smith's account, so whether or not Smith was, in fact, the "intermediary" mentioned in the intelligence reports remains unconfirmed. But Smith told the Journal that he was actively seeking a stash of approximately 33,000 private emails deleted by Clinton from her private email server due to the fact that they were personal in nature and did not relate to official government business when Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Smith said he believed that the deleted mails "actually concerned official matters Mrs. Clinton wanted to conceal—two notions for which he offered no evidence," the Journal reported. He suspected that hackers, likely those working for Russia, had obtained the emails, according to the report. Five hacker groups had possession of the emails, two of them connected to the Russian government, Smith claimed in the interview shortly before his death.
But former FBI Director James Comey has said that the Bureau's investigation never found evidence that Clinton's private email server was ever hacked — though it was impossible to say definitely that it never was.
Trump himself made no secret about his desire to obtain the deleted emails. During his campaign, he openly called upon Russia to release the 33,000 supposed Clinton emails, saying in July, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."
Smith claimed that he did obtain some emails from hacker groups, and after examining them personally he could not be certain that they were genuine Clinton emails. Rather than simply dispose of them, however, he said that he instructed the hacker groups to pass them to WikiLeaks which had published thousands of emails hacked from Democratic National Committee servers. But the emails were never released by WikiLeaks, and in fact, whether they ever reached WikiLeaks or not remains unclear.
The operation to get Clinton's hacked emails was far from the first time that Smith had been involved in clandestine Republican political operations. In the early 1990s, Smith personally paid about $80,000 to attack President Bill Clinton in the "Troopergate" scandal, in which it was alleged that Clinton, while governor of Arkansas, had directed state troopers to procure women for extramarital sexual encounters. Smith directly paid two Arkansas troopers to make their allegations against Clinton, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.
[Featured Image by Molly Riley/Getty Images]