A deceased GOP operative reportedly attempted to obtain emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private server. The operative, who said he was working on behalf of former Trump campaign adviser retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, was given questionable copies of emails he suspected were stolen by Russian hackers.
According to Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal reported June 29 that the late Peter W. Smith, a GOP operative who had extensive ties to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, had sent a series of emails to cyber hackers during the 2016 campaign, asking if they could obtain him copies of the 33,000 emails deleted from Clinton's private server.
Cybersecurity expert Eric York recalled that Smith had asked him to scour cyber hacker forums for any copies of the Clinton emails.
"[Smith] said, 'I'm talking to Michael Flynn about this -- if you find anything, can you let me know?'" York told the WSJ, Newsweek reports.
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The WSJ reviewed the emails Smith sent out, finding that he had repeatedly said he was working on behalf of Flynn. The GOP operative also wrote that Flynn's son, Michael G. Flynn, and his consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, were also consulting hackers to obtain the Clinton emails.
Smith was reportedly convinced hackers had successfully stolen the 33,000 emails on Clinton's server that were later deleted. The U.S. intelligence community has found no evidence that such a breach occurred.
In a May interview with the WSJ, Smith said he was eventually delivered emails said to have originated from Clinton's server, but he was skeptical of their authenticity. He also believed that they had been produced by Russian actors.
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"We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government," Smith said.
The GOP operative disclosed that he told the hackers to send the documents to WikiLeaks, the website that published hundreds of emails from the Democratic party during the 2016 election.
On May 14, 81-year-old Smith passed away. Earlier in his career as a Republican researcher, he had worked closely with Gingrich during his tenure as House Speaker. Working as an investment banker, Smith offered financial reassurances to four Arkansas state troopers who accused former President Bill Clinton of asking them to solicit sexual favors. He also attempted to mount a paternity suit against President Clinton, alleging that he had fathered a child out of wedlock, according to The Guardian.
Flynn was a foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump throughout the 2016 campaign. He later became the White House national security adviser, only to resign Feb. 13 after it was discovered he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December 2016, The Washington Post reports.
Flynn is currently a person of interest in the federal probe into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to subvert the election. He is also being investigated for accepting payments from the Russian and Turkish governments without registering as a foreign agent.
On May 19, it was disclosed that U.S. intelligence officials intercepted communications from Russian officials discussing how they could use Flynn to influence the Trump administration, CNN reports.
Currently, the U.S. intelligence community holds a consensus that the Russian government mounted a cyber campaign to hack both political parties and disperse stolen information to undermine the Clinton campaign. U.S. officials have also found evidence that Russian actors attempted to breach dozens of statewide election systems. During the election, WikiLeaks published hundreds of emails stolen from both the Democratic National Committee and former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is reportedly reviewing U.S. intercepts of Russian actors strategizing on how to obtain emails from Clinton's server and deliver them to Flynn.
In July 2016, Trump called on Russian hackers during a press conference to unearth the deleted Clinton emails and circulate them.
"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you can find the 33,000 emails that are missing," Trump said. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."
On June 26, White House press secretary Sean Spicer asserted that the president was not being serious when he made his request, Talking Points Memo reports.
"He was joking at the time," Spicer said. "We all know that."