A former private equity adviser and Republican operative who died soon after telling the Wall Street Journal he tried during the 2016 presidential election campaign to obtain Hillary Clinton's missing emails from Russian hackers killed himself, according to a state death record obtained by the Chicago Tribune. The newspaper said it obtained the record from Olmsted County, Minnesota, saying that Peter W. Smith, 81, took his own life in a hotel near the Mayo Clinic on Sunday, May 14. He was found with a bag over his head with a source of helium attached, per the AP. A note from Smith found by police said that he was taking his own life because of bad health and his life insurance was expiring. The report prompted speculation on social media that Smith's death was connected to the investigation. However, nothing in the Tribune story suggests a connection.
Smith's death came about 10 days after the Journal said that he granted the newspaper an interview. The Journal reported that Smith was convinced that emails missing from Clinton's server were in the hands of Russian hackers and that he had worked with a team to acquire them. Smith said he was working independently and President Trump's campaign said Smith never worked for it. Smith told the Journal he was unsure of the authenticity of emails hackers eventually did send to him and he told them to pass them to WikiLeaks, the same outfit that published the emails taken from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee. In a Thursday tweet, the Journal reporter who interviewed Smith about his attempts to get at the hacked emails said he "had no indication that he was ill or planning to take his own life." (Read more suicide stories.)