Yesterday we reported how the death of Peter Smith, a longtime Republican operative and financier, had been ruled a suicide. Smith was the primary source for a bizarre WSJ story that tried to link National Security Adviser Mike Flynn with a group of individuals organized by Smith who bargained with a Russian hacker group for copies of what were purportedly Hillary Clinton’s missing 30,000 emails.
Smith died on May 14 – 10 days after he was interviewed by WSJ for the piece. Though a reporter initially described his death as stemming from natural causes, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday that it had been, in fact, a suicide, citing local police records that describe the manner of death – asphyxiation due to helium poisoning – and an alleged suicide note that cited his recent ill health and the coming expiry of a life insurance policy as Smith’s reasons for taking his own life.
But before that narrative could catch hold, a longtime associate of Smith who may have been the last person to speak with him has come forward, telling the Daily Caller that he doesn’t believe the police’s suicide ruling…and neither should you.
Charles Ortel, a Wall Street investment banker and market analyst, told the DC that there were no indications the Chicago businessman and anti-Clinton political investigator was about to take his life when the two spoke on the phone the day before his death.
“He may have been a fantastic actor but I certainly didn’t leave that phone call saying, ‘oh shit, the guy’s at the end of his rope,’” Charles Ortel, a Wall Street investment banker and market analyst, told The Daily Caller News Foundation’s (TheDCNF) Investigative Group.
“This does not seem like a settled story. It made perfect sense to me he might have died of natural causes, but little chance he would have killed himself,” Smith said.
Ortel and Smith had a common interest in the Clintons. Ortel has dug deeply into the financial operations of the Clinton Foundation. He first came to public attention in 2007 by exposing questionable accounting practices at General Electric, according to the DC.
And Smith reportedly had a hand in exposing then Gov. Bill Clinton’s “Troopergate” scandal, where the future president used state troopers to guard him while he was having sex with various women who were not his wife.
Ortel said in his last phone call to him, Smith seemed to be upbeat and very interested in future projects.
Initially, Ortel assumed Smith died of natural causes, but after reading the police report, which included a description of a jerry-rigged suffocation device that’s widely used by terminally ill patients who opt to take their own lives, he’s not so sure.
“There are lots of older guys like him who still ‘have it ‘and they’re still smart. They like projects. They like the intellectual stimulation. He was very interested and pleased with his work,” Ortel said.
Ortel also said the description of the suicide note – with its all-caps type – was out of character for Smith, and that, out of all the emails they’d sent to each other, he couldn’t remember a single example of Smith typing in all caps.
Ortel also was suspicious about the note Smith allegedly left behind, written in all caps, stating “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER.”
He also noted that many life insurance policies typically exclude payments to beneficiaries in the case of suicide.
He wrote that he was taking his own life because of a “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017” and that his timing was related “TO LIFE INSURANCE OF $5 MILLION EXPIRING.”
Assuming, for a moment, Smith’s death was the result of foul play: what’s the explanation? Could it have been a politically motivated attack? In the original WSJ story, Smith said he’d received a cache of documents purporting to be the missing 30,000 emails that Clinton withheld from the FBI and State Department, but withheld them because he had doubts about their veracity. Maybe Smith was in possession of the legitimate emails, but lied about turning them over to Wikileaks. What if the Democrats were somehow warned about what Smith had in his possession, or at least what he believed he might have had. Is another "Seth Rich" scenario emerging?