NEW YORK (CBS Interactive) — A Republican opposition researcher, who implied he worked with Michael Flynn, launched an effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s e-mails which he believed were hacked by Russia, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Peter W. Smith, a GOP operative and private equity executive, launched the project over Labor Day weekend in 2016 according to the Journal. Smith told people he recruited to the effort that he was working with Flynn, who would later briefly serve as President Trump’s National Security Adviser. Smith also said he was working with Flynn’s son.
Smith would not tell the paper if Flynn was working with the group. However, the paper also reports that intelligence officials have obtained communications between Russian hackers in which they discuss how to obtain Clinton’s e-mails and pass them along to Flynn through a third party.
Those intercepts of the hackers’ conversations occurred while Smith’s group was operating, intelligence officials told the paper, although they could not conclude that Smith or any members of his team were the supposed third party the Russians’ discussed.
Smith’s team included lawyers, technology experts, and an investigator in Europe who spoke Russian. He died ten days after he talked to the Journal, at age 81.
The team focused on obtaining the roughly 33,000 e-mails that had been deleted from Clinton’s server — the same e-mails Mr. Trump had publicly encouraged Russia to find and leak last year, a comment the White House now insists was made in jest. Last year, then-FBI director James Comey said there was no evidence the server had ever been hacked, although he didn’t rule out the possibility.