A former British government intelligence official has said he was approached last summer by a veteran Republican operative to help verify hacked Hillary Clinton emails offered by a mysterious and most likely Russian source. The incident, recounted by Matt Tait, who was a information security specialist for GCHQ and now runs a private internet security consultancy in the UK, may cast new light on one of the pathways the Russians used to influence the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour. Tait’s account, published on the Lawfare national security blog, demonstrates a willingness to collude with the Russians on the part of the Republican operative, Peter Smith, who had a long history of hunting down damaging material about the Clinton family on behalf of the GOP leadership. It also points towards possible collusion by Trump aides.
According to Tait, Smith claimed to be working with Trump’s then foreign policy adviser, Michael Flynn, and showed documentation suggesting he was also associated with close Trump aides including Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.
They have denied having had contact with Smith, who died in May at the age of 81, about 10 days after talking to the Wall Street Journalabout his pursuit of the emails. Smith told the paper he had operated independently of the Trump campaign.
In his account, Tait writes that he thought Smith had approached him because of his analysis of Democratic National Commitee (DNC) emails stolen by suspected Russian hackers and then published online.