A Republican opposition researcher raised at least $100,000 in an effort to hunt down emails thought to be stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, activities that are under intense scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
Mueller may be especially interested in the researcher, Peter Smith, because he implied to those whom he tried to recruit for effort that he was connected to several Trump campaign officials – including Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, and Kellyanne Conway.
Smith died 10 days after revealing his efforts to the Journal in an apparent suicide.
Smith apparently went to great lengths to ensure the secrecy of his project and was hoping to obtain incriminating Clinton emails from hackers just weeks before the 2016 election.
He reportedly obtained the $100,000 from at least four financiers, in addition to a $50,000 contribution from himself. The donations were made in the name of a Washington scholarship fund for Russian students, although the Journal could not determine if the scholarship fund existed.
An email sent about obtaining the pledges came just a few days after WikiLeaks and DCLeaks began releasing emails damaging to Clinton’s campaign and four days after the U.S. government publicly warned that Russia was trying to interfere in the election.
Smith’s estate has reportedly given documents to Mueller’s probe, as well as to investigations being conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Smith, the White House and an official for Trump’s campaign have all denied that Smith worked for them while attempting to obtain the emails, the Journal reported.