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‘I Got Recruited to Collude With Russians’: Man Admits Role in Trump/Russia Affair

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On Friday night, The Wall Street Journal had another bombshell report about possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. They reported a longtime Republican operative was searching for Hillary Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails and was in touch with 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.” One of the documents that the GOP activist, Peter Smith, prepared was marked “Trump campaign” and included names like Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Clovis, and Lt. Gen Mike Flynn. The implication of the WSJ report is that Smith’s operation was done at the behest of the Trump campaign. Though, the report says Smith (who has since died) contended he operated independently of the campaign. 

In an interesting twist, the man, who claims he was the WSJ’s unnamed source in the original story, has “outed” himself on a legal national security blog called LawFareblog.com. In the lengthy article titled “I Got Recruited to Collude with The Russians,” Matt Tait recounts how he was approached by Peter Smith about authenticating Clinton emails, and how he soon learned the operation had apparent ties to the Trump campaign. Tait is CEO and founder of Capital Alpha Security, a British cyber security firm.

In a blog post published late Friday night, Tait said he was initially recruited by Smith (the GOP operative) because he had actively gone through Clinton documents obtained through FOIA requests and posted pertinent material on his twitter feed.

He recounts:

A few weeks later, right around the time the DNC emails were dumped by Wikileaks—and curiously, around the same time Trump called for the Russians to get Hillary Clinton’s missing emails—I was contacted out the blue by a man named Peter Smith, who had seen my work going through these emails. Smith implied that he was a well-connected Republican political operative..

Yet Smith had not contacted me about the DNC hack, but rather about his conviction that Clinton’s private email server had been hacked—in his view almost certainly both by the Russian government and likely by multiple other hackers too—and his desire to ensure that the fruits of those hacks were exposed prior to the election. Over the course of a long phone call, he mentioned that he had been contacted by someone on the “Dark Web” who claimed to have a copy of emails from Secretary Clinton’s private server, and this was why he had contacted me; he wanted me to help validate whether or not the emails were genuine.

Tait continued by saying that he never figured out who Smith’s contact was in the “dark web” and whether that person was trying to dupe him out of money or legitimately had ties to the Russian government. However, Tait said, the GOP operative never had any concern that the emails may be coming from a Russian source. Tait also admits he is unsure how closely tied Smith was to the Trump campaign, though says it was clear that he was “well-connected” with the top echelons of the campaign including Michael Flynn. Tait said he tried to discourage Smith from engaging with the dark web group.

“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,” Tait wrote.

Tait said he never saw the actual materials that were sent, and does not know if they were genuine. Both Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon have denied that they were behind the report. The White House has not responded to inquiries.

 

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