A British former GCHQ information specialist has claimed a Republican operative tried to recruit him in a bid to verify emails purportedly hacked from Hillary Clinton, potentially by Russia.
In the latest twist in the probe into whether there was collusion between anyone connected to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia the British cyber-security expert Matt Tait said he had been approached by the operative last Spring.
A Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the US presidential election, called for the panel to immediately hear from Mr Tait.
Congressman Joaquin Castro said: “The House Intelligence Committee should hear from Matt Tait ASAP.”
Writing on the Lawfare blog under a heading “The time I got recruited to collude with the Russians,” Mr Tait said the operative, Peter Smith, thought hackers, including Russian ones, had got into Mrs Clinton’s private server and obtained 33,000 emails that were missing from the inquiry into her use of the server while she was Secretary of State.
Mr Tait, who now runs British-based Capital Alpha Security, said he believed Mr Smith was operating “with the blessing of the Trump campaign” although it was “certainly possible that he was a big name-dropper”.
Mr Smith recently told the Wall Street Journal he had no connections to the Trump campaign. He died days after the interview at the age of 81 on May 14. The White House and a Trump campaign official have also denied connections to him.
Mr Smith was a private-equity executive from Chicago with a long history of researching opponents of the Republican Party and had reportedly assembled a team of technology experts in an attempt to obtain Mrs Clinton’s missing emails.
Mr Tait wrote: “Smith implied that he was a well-connected Republican political operative. Smith and his associates’ knowledge of the inner workings of the campaign were insightful beyond what could be obtained by merely attending Republican events or watching large amounts of news coverage.
“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.”
Mr Tait said that Mr Smith told him he had obtained what may be some of Mrs Clinton’s emails from a contact on the “Dark Web” and needed help verifying them.
The British cyber-security expert said this made him “extremely uncomfortable” and he told Mr Smith and his associates that “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.”
Mr Tait said he cut off contact with Mr Smith and his associates and never saw any of the alleged Clinton emails.
He added: “It is no overstatement to say that my conversations with Smith shocked me.”