Just days after talking with The Wall Street Journal about his attempts to obtain Hillary Clinton’s 30,000+ missing emails from Russian hackers, Republican operative Peter W. Smith committed suicide. Despite the suspicious timing, evidence found by police indicates that Smith took his own life because of his failing health.
In mid-May, in a room at a Rochester hotel used almost exclusively by Mayo Clinic patients and relatives, Peter W. Smith, 81, left a carefully prepared file of documents, including a statement police called a suicide note in which he said he was in ill health and a life insurance policy was expiring.
Days earlier, the financier from suburban Lake Forest gave an interview to the Journal about his quest, and it began publishing stories about his efforts in late June. The Journal also reported it had seen emails written by Smith showing his team considered retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then a top adviser to Republican Donald Trump‘s campaign, an ally. Flynn briefly was President Trump’s national security adviser and resigned after it was determined he had failed to disclose contacts with Russia.
Smith’s death occurred a little over a week after he gave the interview. The Journal’s lead reporter on Smith initially reported that while the details surrounding his death were unclear, it appeared he had died of natural causes. But as the Tribune revealed Thursday, Smith’s state death record says he killed himself. Smith was “found with a bag over his head with a source of helium attached,” the paper reports.
Both a medical examiner’s report and evidence found by police confirm the finding. Police found a suicide note in which Smith underscored that “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER” led to his death; rather, a “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017” along with an expiring $5 million life insurance policy had prompted him to take his own life.
“He had been staying at the hotel for several days and had extended his stay at least once but was expected to check out on the day his body was found,” the Tribune reports. According to police, Smith told a hotel worker, “Tomorrow is my last day,” while working at the hotel’s business center.
In his talks with the Journal, Smith said he had organized a team to try to track down the thousands of emails deleted by Clinton, which he believed to be in the possession of Russian hackers. He had performed similar oppo research on Democrats in the past, including on “Troopergate,” which targeted Clinton’s husband. Smith stressed that he was working on his own volition, not at the behest of the Trump campaign.