Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, a GOP opposition researcher sought emails deleted from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE’s private email server that he believed had been hacked by the Russians, according to a new report on Thursday.
The operative, Peter W. Smith, the White House and an official for President Trump’s campaign deny that the operative worked for them, The Wall Street Journal reported.
However, during his investigation, Smith told several of the people he interviewed in search of the emails that he was affiliated with Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
According to the Journal, federal investigators probing Russia’s role in the 2016 election have looked into intelligence reports indicating that Russian hackers sought to obtain Clinton’s emails and hand them over to Flynn through an intermediary.
It isn’t clear who the intermediary was, though the intelligence was gathered around the same time that Smith’s group was seeking the emails.
Flynn was forced to resign as Trump’s national security adviser in February amid revelations that he misled Vice President Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Flynn did not respond to the Journal's request for comment.
As part of his effort to obtain the emails, Smith put together a group of lawyers, investigators and technology experts.
The emails sought by Smith were those deleted from Clinton’s private email server. Former FBI Director James Comey said last year in his recommendation against prosecuting Clinton that the private server did not appear to have been hacked.
The result of his investigation, Smith said, was that five hacking groups claimed to have Clinton’s private emails, and he determined that at least two of those groups were Russian.
But the GOP operative said he was unsure if the emails reviewed by his group were authentic. Instead, his operation advised the hackers to give the documents to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks. They were never published and WikiLeaks has not claimed to possess them.
Smith has died since speaking to the Journal, the paper reported.
— This report was updated at 6:15 p.m.