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What Did Trump Know about Efforts to Obtain Clinton Email Messages from Hackers?

Donald Trump and Michael Flynn
Donald Trump and Michael Flynn

Did Donald Trump know about efforts by Republican operatives and campaign associates to contact Russian hackers and obtain deleted email messages from Hillary Clinton’s server during the 2016 presidential campaign?

If he did, what did he know and when did he know it?

That is the question political experts want answers to as news surfaced last night that at the height of the 2016 presidential election, a Republican operative with ties to Trump friend and former security adviser Michael Flynn actively sought out Russian hackers with the aim of obtaining the messages.

Peter W. Smith was looking for email messages illegally obtained from Hillary Clinton’s campaign servers by Russians who are believed to have hacked the servers at the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that the veteran Republican opposition researcher told associates he was coordinating his activities with Flynn who at that time was an adviser to the Trump campaign and a personal friend of Donald Trump.

See also: Drip. Drip. Drip. Trump, Russia Collusion Start to Emerge.

The question is did Trump know about these efforts to obtain hacked Clinton emails on his behalf or were these moves made without his knowledge?

The Journal said Peter W. Smith reached out to computer security experts here in the United States and Russia with the aim of obtaining that trove of email messages.

Smith died just days after speaking with Wall Street Journal. Though he told the newspaper of his association with Michael Flynn, it was clear what his involvement in the project was.

The White House and Michael Flynn are refusing to respond to requests for comments from the media but one Trump campaign official said Smith was not directly involved with the campaign.

President Trump fired Michael Flynn earlier this year following revelations that he met with Russian officials and lied about it to Vice President Mike Pence. His relationship with the Russians is currently being investigated by special counsel Robert Muller III.

In an email sent out by Peter W. Smith, he indicated that he was closely coordinating his efforts with Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn. In another message he listed Michel Flynn’s company, Flynn Intel group on top of the list of websites owned by individuals he was working with.

One U.S. Security expert who spoke to the Journal confirmed he worked for Smith in his efforts to unearth Clinton’s deleted email messages.

“He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this—if you find anything, can you let me know?’” Eric York, a computer security expert who searched hacker forums on Smith’s behalf to try to dig up the emails, told the Journal.

During the campaign, Trump famously urged Russian hackers to hack and publish the 33,000 email messages Hillary Clinton said she had deleted from her personal servers because they were personal in nature. Those were the same messages that Smith was going after.

Trump and his Republican friends have repeatedly referred to the investigations into his alleged collusion with the Russians during the campaign as a witch hunt but this may be the first time that someone very close to him is linked directly to the Russian effort to influence the 2016 elections.

U.S. cyber security experts said Smith’s efforts may have yielded results since he was said to have received a cache of email messages from Russian hackers. He later urged them to give the messages to WikiLeaks, the same group that published hacked email messages from the Democratic national Committee (DNC) computers.

This was not the first time that Smith, a Chicago investment banker was involved in efforts by conservatives to find and publish damaging information about the Clintons.

During 1990s, he helped fund a large scale right-wing effort to find and publish damaging information about then-President Bill Clinton.


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