Republican political operative Peter Smith was found dead from an apparent suicide, according to public records just acquired by The Chicago Tribune. This came just ten days after he told The Wall Street Journal he’d sought tens of thousands of Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails from hacking groups.
Midday Sunday, May 14th, investigators found Smith’s body in a hotel near the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Smith’s body had a bag over his head which was attached to a helium source, according to death reports.
Smith’s Minnesota state death record states his cause of death as “asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in a confined space with helium.” Wednesday, when reached by the Tribune, Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson said Smith’s method of choice was “unusual.”
Working independently of the Trump campaign and starting in May 2016, Smith told the Wall Street Journal that he and his team worked to acquire tens of thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails that had been deleted by the former Secretary of State because they described “personal” matters.
Smith told the Journal that five teams of hackers, at least two of whom were Russian, claimed to have Clinton’s emails. In documents used to recruit new operatives, The Wall Street Journal reported that Smith named advisers Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, former National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn and campaign aide-turned USDA White House liaison Sam Clovis.
The Tribune reports that Smith had a “carefully prepared file of documents” next to him, including a suicide note. Smith explained his suicide as the consequence of a “recent bad turn in health since January, 2017” and “Life insurance of $5 million expiring.” The note explicitly said “No foul play whatsoever.”
Smith may have had term life insurance, which, as the name denotes, only applies for a term — a finite period of time. Additionally, life insurance policies can pay in the event of suicide, though they often require a waiting period of two years — sometimes called the “suicide clause.”
The day before he died, Smith wrote a blog post that said “As attention turns to international affairs, as it will shortly, the Russian interference story will die of its own weight.”
An obituary for Smith said he was “adept at bringing people together and negotiating agreement” in his business and political careers.