GOP activist who sought Clinton emails cited Trump campaign officials

The Wall Street Journal reports: A longtime Republican activist who led an operation hoping to obtain Hillary Clinton emails from hackers listed senior members of the Trump campaign, including some who now serve as top aides in the White House, in a recruitment document for his effort.

The activist, Peter W. Smith, named the officials in a section of the document marked “Trump Campaign.” The document was dated Sept. 7, 2016. That was around the time Mr. Smith said he started his search for 33,000 emails Mrs. Clinton deleted from the private server she used for official business while secretary of state. She said the deleted emails concerned personal matters. She turned over tens of thousands of other emails to the State Department.

As reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Smith and people he recruited to his effort theorized the deleted emails might have been stolen by hackers and might contain matters that were politically damaging. He and his associates said they were in touch with several groups of hackers, including two from Russia they suspected were tied to the Moscow government, in a bid to find any stolen emails and potentially hurt Mrs. Clinton’s prospects.

Mr. Smith’s purpose in listing the officials isn’t clear. There is no indication in the document that he sought or received any coordination from the campaign officials or the campaign in general.

Mr. Smith died in mid-May at age 81, about 10 days after he spoke to the Journal. He said he operated independently of the Trump campaign.

Officials identified in the document include Steve Bannon, now chief strategist for President Donald Trump; Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager and now White House counselor; Sam Clovis, a policy adviser to the Trump campaign and now a senior adviser at the Agriculture Department; and retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was a campaign adviser and briefly was national security adviser in the Trump administration.

Mr. Bannon said he never met with Mr. Smith or anyone affiliated with a limited-liability company, KLS Research LLC, that the document said had been established for its mission. “Never heard of KLS Research or Peter Smith,” Mr. Bannon said.

Ms. Conway said she knew Mr. Smith from Republican politics but hadn’t spoken to him in years. “I never met with him” during the campaign, Ms. Conway said. “There were no calls, no meetings, no nothing.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did the Agriculture Department, Mr. Clovis’s employer.

Mr. Flynn, his consulting firm Flynn Intel Group and his son Michael G. Flynn, who was chief of staff at Flynn Intel, were cited more extensively as Mr. Smith sought to recruit researchers, as well as in documents related to the effort that have been described to the Journal. Neither Mr. Flynn nor his son responded to requests for comment. [Continue reading…]

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