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Schmidt received a bachelor’s degree in English from Mary Baldwin College in 1975. After college, she became a news assistant at the Washington Star. Later working for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and the Quincy Mass. Patriot Ledger before joining the Washington Post in 1983.
At the Post, she worked as an editor in the metro desk, a reporter in business news, and joined the national news staff in 1992. In 2002, she won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on post-9/11 terrorism with Bob Woodward and five other Post reporters. In 2006, Schmidt again shared the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting with James V. Grimaldi and R. Jeffrey Smith for their probe into, and exposure of lobbyist Jack Abramoff's corrupt activities. Their stories were published in installments. Her articles triggered prosecutions by the Justice Department that put the lobbyist and other congressional staff members and U.S. officials in federal prison. Schmidt is credited with writing the first story about the Monica Lewinsky investigation, although The Drudge Report leaked the story in the hours before that day's Post was distributed. As newspapers began to scale back investigative reporting in 2009, she left the Wall Street Journal to start a new company with Glenn Simpson to do investigative work for private clients. In addition, they work the with International Assessment and Strategy Center.
With Michael Weisskopf, Schmidt is co-author with of Truth at Any Cost: Ken Starr and the Unmaking of Bill Clinton (ISBN 0-06-019485-5), which focuses on Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr and the Lewinsky scandal.
Truth at Any Cost: Ken Starr and the Unmaking of Bill Clinton. Susan Schmidt and Michael Weisskopf, Harper (2000)
Deadlock: The Inside Story of America's Closest Election. The Political Staff of the Washington Post, PublicAffairs (2001)
- 2006 Pulitzer Prize Winners
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- "The Pulitzer Prizes | Biography". www.pulitzer.org. Retrieved 2015-05-27.
- "International Assessment and Strategy Center > Scholars > Susan Schmidt". www.strategycenter.net. Retrieved 2015-05-27.
- "Two WSJ reporters launch new company - - POLITICO.com". www.politico.com. Retrieved 2015-05-27.