A man claiming to have worked with Republican opposition researcher Peter W. Smith, who reportedly tried to obtain emails thought to be stolen from Hillary Clinton's private email server, says that Smith was likely working for the Trump campaign.
Following the publication of two Wall Street Journal reports this week about Smith and his ties to former national security adviser Mike Flynn and other Trump officials, cybersecurity expert Matt Tait said he was contacted by Smith to help him obtain the lost Clinton emails. In a blog post published Friday evening on Lawfare, which is titled The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians, Tait, who is the CEO and founder of U.K.-based Capital Alpha Security, said he is the Journal's unnamed source and details a number of factors he believes show Smith was working with Trump's blessing.
First, he said, Smith had a "deep knowledge" of the "inner workings" of Trump's campaign.
"Although it wasn't initially clear to me how independent Smith's operation was from Flynn or the Trump campaign, it was immediately apparent that Smith was both well connected within the top echelons of the campaign and he seemed to know both Lt. Gen. Flynn and his son well," he wrote.
Smith, Tait said, told him of Flynn's his "deep dislike" of former President Barack Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, "whom Flynn blamed for his dismissal by President Obama."
Smith also allegedly discussed Flynn's early ambitions to become CIA director but said that he was told that he would find the Senate confirmation process "prohibitively difficult" and was instead offered the national security adviser role, which does not require Senate confirmation.
Flynn was later fired from his role as national security adviser after he misled Trump administration officials about his communications with Russian officials.
Tait also described a document that was sent his way by Smith, which was "ostensibly a cover page for a dossier of opposition research to be compiled by Smith's group, and which purported to clear up who was involved." He explained that the company Smith and his team had set up, named "KLS Research," was designed as a Delaware LLC "to avoid campaign reporting." Within that document, Tait said there was a group labeled Trump Campaign, which listed a number of top campaign officials including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Sam Clovis, which the Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Friday.
"My perception then was that the inclusion of Trump campaign officials on this document was not merely a name-dropping exercise," Tait wrote. "This document was about establishing a company to conduct opposition research on behalf of the campaign, but operating at a distance so as to avoid campaign reporting. Indeed, the document says as much in black and white."
Tait surmised that the "combination of Smith's deep knowledge of the inner workings of the campaign, this document naming him in the 'Trump campaign' group, and the multiple references to needing to avoid campaign reporting suggested to me that the group was formed with the blessing of the Trump campaign."
Tait conceded that he doesn't know for certain but said that if Smith never actually represented anyone other than himself — the Journal reported several Trump officials denied having any connection to Smith — then "Smith talked a very good game."
Smith, the Journal reported, said he had no connections to the Trump campaign.
Smith, 81, died about a week and a half after he gave an interview with the Journal, the newspaper said in its first report on the man on Thursday. He had reportedly been seeking the more than 30,000 emails from Clinton's unauthorized server as secretary of state that she said were personal and were deleted rather than handed over to investigators.
Though there is no evidence that Clinton's server had been hacked, former FBI Director James Comey said it is possible that it was breached.
Tait said in his blog post that Smith, before they broke off communications in September, had said that he had a contact in the "Dark Web" who claimed to have had copies of Clinton's lost emails. Smith wanted Tait to verify the emails, and while Tait said he told Smith the dark web contact was possibly lying or was a front for the Russians, he never actually saw anything the contact had to offer.
But, according to Tait, Smith's motive was apparent: "They appeared to be convinced of the need to obtain Clinton's private emails and make them public, and they had a reckless lack of interest in whether the emails came from a Russian cut-out. Indeed, they made it quite clear to me that it made no difference to them who hacked the emails or why they did so, only that the emails be found and made public before the election."
Lawfare is run by Benjamin Wittes, who is the friend of Comey's who revealed himself in a blog post to be a New York Times source who divulged details of alleged conversations Comey had with Trump about letting go of an investigation into Flynn and a loyalty pledge. Tait said he was acting "in the spirit of" Wittes by writing his own blog post.