Peter Smith told the Wall Street Journal in May that he reached out to people he believed were affiliated with the Kremlin to find messages from the Democrat’s private server.
The Journal report from late last month, which showed that he had claimed to be working with future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, said Smith died about 10 days after the conversation.
No information was given about the 81-year-old’s death in his obituary, and the coroner in Lake County, Minn., where he lived, said at the time that it uncharacteristically did not have records about his death.
Police in Minnesota, however, discovered what appeared to be a suicide note after Smith was found at a hotel near the Mayo Clinic on May 14, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.
“NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER,” the note reportedly read, adding that there had been a “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017” and that his $5 million life insurance policy was expiring.
Records show Smith died of asphyxiation with a bag over his head that was connected to a helium source.
Details about Smith’s unidentified illness were not immediately available, and the Mayo Clinic was barred from sharing whether he was a patient there.
Emails from Smith’s company and its effort to contact hackers show repeated references to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
He was active online the day before his death, writing two blog posts including one doubting the intelligence community assessment that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election.
Those posts, and Smith’s website, are no longer online, with the page saying that the domain name has expired.
Smith struck a different tone with the Wall Street Journal, saying he believed that beyond Democratic National Committee emails, hackers had taken messages from Clinton’s private email server.
Smith told the Journal that he was instead interested in emails deleted by Clinton when her private email server was under investigation by the FBI.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Trump, after the release of the DNC emails last July, famously said that Russians hackers should hack Clinton’s server, a suggestion he later said was a joke.
Smith said he encountered five groups of hackers who claimed to have the emails, and that two of the groups appeared to “around the Russian government.”
The financier claimed he could not verify the emails he saw, but instead told the hackers to give the emails to WikiLeaks, who has not released any such messages.
He said he assembled a group to try to find them, eventually making contact with people he believed were linked to the Russian government.
The longtime GOP operative, a financier reportedly close to House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, told the newspaper that he was not working in the Trump campaign.
Emails reported by the Journal saw that Smith and his company repeatedly referenced working with Michael Flynn and Michael Flynn’s son, also mentioning the pair’s Flynn Intel company.
“When I spoke to Peter Smith I had no indication that he was ill or planning to take his own life,” the reporter behind that story, the Journal’s Shane Harris, said on Twitter Thursday evening.