I should have known that when the evidence began to come to light, it would reveal a second-rate operation. The most prized witness here is dead but presumably he didn’t take his electronic records with him. The FBI is going to be very interested in talking to this John Szobocsan fellow. Very interested. It looks like he and the recently deceased Peter W. Smith were partners in DigaComm LLC, “a private equity and venture capital firm specializing in seed, start ups, emerging growth, mature, growth capital, industry consolidation, buyout, and early stage investments” that is no longer actively trading. And Mr. Szobocsan is up to his ears in Russian collusion. He made a big mistake when he decided to get on a call with Matt Tait, an “information security specialist for GCHQ” and talk about getting stolen documents from Russian hackers.
It is no overstatement to say that my conversations with Smith shocked me. Given the amount of media attention given at the time to the likely involvement of the Russian government in the DNC hack, it seemed mind-boggling for the Trump campaign—or for this offshoot of it—to be actively seeking those emails. To me this felt really wrong.
In my conversations with Smith and his colleague, I tried to stress this point: if this dark web contact is a front for the Russian government, you really don’t want to play this game. But they were not discouraged. 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.
Trump obviously felt the same way. Of course, there’s a total absence of evidence that Clinton’s server was hacked at all. But we do pretty much know now that this “offshoot” of the Trump campaign was working with the Russians.
The story just didn’t make much sense—that is, until the Journal yesterday published the critical fact that U.S. intelligence has reported that Russian hackers were looking to get emails to Flynn through a cut-out during the Summer of 2016, and this was no idle speculation on my part.
Suddenly, my story seemed important—and ominous.
Matt Tait has now spilled the beans. He’s made it clear that Peter W. Smith convincingly made the case that he was working in concert with the Trump campaign and was dialed into their operation at a very high level. This was evident from the keen insights he had about the internal operations and conflicts within the campaign, and also from his representations that he was working in concert with Michael Flynn and his son, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Sam Clovis. And, yes, there is documentary evidence that Smith made those representations.
The defense here will be that Smith was a rogue operator, but that defense will only stand up if there is no electronic trail to debunk it. All communications Smith had with principlals in the campaign will now be subject to review.
A lot depends on what the investigators find.
And now we know why Trump wanted Comey to stop looking at Flynn, and why he fired Comey when he refused to comply.