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“NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER”: Peter W. Smith, GOP Operative Hunting for Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 Deleted Emails, Commits Suicide…

In Archive, Hillary Clinton, Peter W. Smith, Trump on July 14, 2017 at 1:02 AM

Image via Peter W. Smith’s Twitter

07/13/2017

ChicagoTribune:

A Republican donor and operative from Chicago’s North Shore who said he had tried to obtain Hillary Clinton’s missing emails from hackers killed himself in a Minnesota hotel room days after talking to The Wall Street Journal about his efforts, public records show.

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, which includes 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 published stories about his efforts beginning in late June.

At the time, the newspaper reported Smith’s May 14 death came about 10 days after he granted the interview. Mystery shrouded how and where he had died, but Shane Harris, 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.

However, the Chicago Tribune obtained a Minnesota state death record filed in Olmsted County that says Smith committed suicide in a hotel near the Mayo Clinic at 1:17 p.m. on Sunday, May 14. He 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 Rochester police further details his suicide.

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.”

“Tomorrow is my last day,” Smith told a man at the hotel while he worked on a computer in the business center, printing documents between 8 and 9 p.m. on May 13, 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.

The Journal stories said it was on Labor Day weekend in 2016 that Smith had assembled a team to acquire emails the team theorized might have been stolen from the private server Clinton had used while secretary of state. Smith’s focus was the more than 33,000 emails Clinton said she deleted because they related to personal matters. A huge cache of other Clinton emails were made public.

Smith told the Journal he believed the missing emails might have had been obtained by hackers. He also said he thought the correspondence related to Clinton’s official duties. He told the Journal he worked independently and was not part of the Trump campaign. He also told the Journal he and his team found five groups of hackers, two of them Russian groups, who claimed to have Clinton’s missing emails.

Smith had a history of doing opposition research, the formal term for unflattering information that political operatives dig up about rival candidates.

For years, Democratic President Bill Clinton was Smith’s target. The wealthy businessman had a hand in exposing the “Troopergate” allegations about Bill Clinton’s sex life. And he discussed financing a probe of a 1969 trip Bill Clinton had taken while in college to the Soviet Union, according to Salon magazine.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.”

Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson on Wednesday called his manner of death “unusual,” but a funeral home worker said he’d seen it before.

An employee with Rochester Cremation Services, the funeral home that responded to the hotel, said he helped remove Smith’s body from his room and recalled seeing a tank.

The employee, who spoke on the condition he not be identified because of the sensitive nature of Smith’s death, described the tank as being similar in size to a propane tank on a gas grill. He did not recall seeing a bag that Smith would have placed over his head. He said the coroner and police were there and that he “didn’t do a lot of looking around.”

“When I got there and saw the tank, I thought, ‘I’ve seen this before,’ and was able to put two and two together,” the employee said.

An autopsy was conducted, according to the death record. The Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office declined a Tribune request for the autopsy report and released limited information about Smith’s death. A spokeswoman for AXA Equitable Life Insurance Co., a company listed in documents provided by police, had no immediate comment.

The Final Exit Network, a Florida-based nonprofit, provides information and support to people who suffer from a terminal illness and want to kill themselves. Fran Schindler, a volunteer with the group, noted that the best-selling book Final Exit, written by Derek Humphry in 1991 and revised several times since, explains in detail the helium gas method.

According to figures from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, 172 people committed suicide by suffocation from January 2007 to date. Of those asphyxia deaths, 15 involved the use of a plastic bag over the head.

It could not be determined how many also involved the use of helium, an odorless and tasteless gas, that is non-toxic.

“The helium does not have a direct effect. A bag over someone’s head depletes the oxygen for the person and causes death,” said Becky Schlikerman, spokeswoman for the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. “The addition of helium may displace the oxygen faster but does not have a direct effect on a person.”

Police found a receipt from a local Walmart time stamped from the previous day, May 13 at 12:53 p.m. The receipt was for the purchase of “Helium Jumbo” and other items. Police also noted that the two helium tanks in the room were draped with vinyl-covered exercise ankle or wrist weights. The report did not offer an explanation for the weights. Police said that because they did not suspect foul play, they had not viewed any security video from the Walmart store to confirm that Smith had bought the tanks himself.

Smith’s remains were cremated in Minnesota, the records said. He was married to Janet L. Smith and had three children and three grandchildren, according to his obituary. Tribune calls to family members were not returned.

His obituary said Smith was involved in public affairs for more than 60 years and it heralded him as a “quietly generous champion of efforts to ensure a more economically and politically secure world.”

Smith’s last will and testament, signed last Feb. 21, is seven pages long and on file in Probate Court in Lake County. The will gives his wife his interest in their residential property and his tangible personal property and says remaining assets should be placed into two trusts.

Peter Smith wrote two blog posts dated the day before he was found dead. One challenged U.S. intelligence agency findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. Another post predicted: “As attention turns to international affairs, as it will shortly, the Russian interference story will die of its own weight.”

ChicagoSunTimes:

The Chicago Sun-Times has learned that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign and whether there was collusion with the Trump campaign,  is “very interested” in the opposition research operation put together by Peter W. Smith, the Lake Forest resident who died on May 14, and his business associate, John J. Szobocsan, who this summer is teaching an investment banking course in the masters of finance program at IIT.

“The committee will want to speak with or get documents from everybody associated with the Peter Smith operation,” a source close to the committee told the Sun-Times.

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