HINTON, Iowa | A new report links a Northwest Iowan to the intrigue over Russia's alleged meddling in last year's U.S. presidential campaign.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that a veteran Republican opposition researcher tried to enlist several Donald Trump campaign officials, including Sam Clovis of rural Hinton, in a scheme to obtain emails the operative believed were stolen from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's email server.
In addition to Clovis, the GOP operative, Peter W. Smith, named top Trump staffers Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Kellyanne Conway, in a recruitment document for his effort, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Smith, 81, died in April, about 1 1/2 weeks after he gave the interview to the Journal, the newspaper reported.
Clovis, a top policy advisor for the Trump campaign who now serves as senior White House advisor at the Department of Agriculture, was not immediately available for comment last week. Bannon, now chief strategist in the White House, and Conway, a White House counsel, have publicly denied any involvement with Smith.
Flynn, who was fired as Trump's national security adviser after admitting he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about a phone call he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. weeks before Trump's inauguration, is now a key figure in investigations into Russia election interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Russian operatives have been blamed for stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The Wall Street Journal report said Smith and his team of computer experts focused on about 33,000 emails that Clinton said she had deleted from her private email server because they were personal and not related to a FBI investigation into the emails and server. Smith believed, without proof, the deleted emails had been acquired by hackers, the newspaper said.
Looking to find the emails and potentially harm Clinton's campaign, Smith and those he recruited said they communicated with several hackers, including two from Russia they suspected were tied to the Kremlin, according to the Wall Street Journal report.
Smith told the newspaper that he could not confirm the authenticity of emails the hackers eventually sent him. He told them to pass them along to WikiLeaks, the international group that leaked emails stolen from Podesta and the DNC, according to the Wall Street Journal report.
Clovis, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary in June 2014 and then as the GOP nominee for state treasurer that fall, is a former Morningside College economics professor and Sioux City radio talk show host. In August 2015, less than five months before Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, he joined the Trump campaign as national co-chairman and chief policy adviser.
Clovis often served as a surrogate for Trump during the campaign. The day of the inaugration, Clovis was sworn in as senior White House advisor to the USDA. More recently, he has been mentioned as a possible candidate for undersecretary for the department's Research, Education and Economics division.