A Democratic congressman suggested on Thursday night that the reported suicide of a longtime Republican operative with alleged ties to the Trump campaign and Russian hackers may have a more nefarious explanation.
The congressman, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), raised the prospect that the donor, Peter Smith, 81, had not killed himself in a hotel room—as had been reported—but that a cover up have been to blame.
“You don’t need to be a prosecutor to know that someone writing NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER in connection with a death seems awfully suspicious,” Lieu tweeted.
Though the circumstances surrounding Smith’s death have been inseparable from politics—he died just days after the Wall Street Journal reported that he’d been attempting to find Hillary Clinton’s private emails—there is no evidence to suggest that it was anything other than a suicide. The Chicago Tribune, which first reported Smith’s death, said that he wrote in a note recovered by police that he decided to take his life due to a “recent bad turn in health since January, 2017” and explicitly said that “no foul play whatsoever” was linked to the incident.
Smith’s cause of death, according to the report, was “asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in confined space with helium.”
A spokesman for Lieu did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast as to why he was floating alternative conspiracies.
In the initial story, for which Smith was interviewed, the operative indicated that he was looking for some 30,000 emails that had been previously deleted by Clinton. In the process, he reportedly reached out to hacker groups including two that Smith contended had ties to the Russian government.
Smith “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 hunted hacker forums for potential leads on the emails, told The Wall Street Journal.
Just 10 days after the interview, Smith was found dead in a Minnesota hotel room.