An Australian diplomat's tip appears to have helped persuade the FBI to investigate Russian meddling in the US election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The Australians, the Times reported, informed the US about Papadopoulos's claim two months later, after hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee were released - i.e.in July 2016.
Australian officials aren't happy that USA officials had identified their British ambassador as playing a key role in launching the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russian Federation, reported The Age.
The Times reported that the meeting between the Australian high commisisoner and the Trump aide was arranged through Israeli connections. Trump has called the dossier a "pile of garbage".
What changed Downer's mind is that WikiLeaks published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, according to Fairfax Media's report.
Mueller is investigating whether there was any coordination between Trump's campaign team and the Russian government as part of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
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The information reportedly was cited as a major factor in the FBI's decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into Kremlin contacts with the Trump campaign.
"He was hardly central to the daily running of the Trump campaign, yet Mr. Papadopoulos continuously found ways to make himself useful to senior Trump advisers", and "interviews and new documents show that he stayed influential throughout the campaign", the Times notes.
The Age reported that Downer had conveyed the conversation to Australian officials via official cable, but apparently not immediately.
Rick Gates, a business associate of Mr Manafort who worked as his deputy on Trump's campaign, has been charged with unrelated crimes and has pleaded not guilty.
It's unclear if it was Mr Downer himself, someone in his office, the Turnbull government, or our agencies who whispered in Federal Bureau of Investigation ears.
It is hard to believe that Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russian Federation had dirt on Clinton but didn't mention anything to the campaign he was part of.
Mr Trump probably won't appreciate Mr Downer's intervention, but the Australian has earned himself some admirers in the US. And Papadopoulos is cooperating with Mueller.