Law & the Courts

Ex-Australian Diplomat Explains Why He Turned Papadapoulos Info over to FBI

George Papadopoulos leaves after his sentencing hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., September 7, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

During a Thursday interview on Sky News, former Australian diplomat Alexander Downer explained his decision to turn over to the FBI information about George Papadopoulos that eventually prompted an investigation into the Trump campaign.

Two month after meeting with Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, in May 2016, Downer, then serving as Australia’s ambassador to the U.K., sent a memo to the FBI in which he relayed Papadopoulos’s claim that Russian intelligence planned to release damaging information about Hillary Clinton ahead of the election.

“I don’t know why he told me this, but he did, and we reported it. And the rest is history,” Downer said. “There’s no defense for him saying it’s some sort of weird conspiracy. I mean, it’s what he told me.”

“I have no idea why he was blabbering this, but if you say that sort of thing to somebody who is part of the Five Eyes intelligence community, I mean I would regard myself as a warrior for the Western alliance,” said Downer, seemingly pushing back on Papadopoulos’s claim that he was sent to ensnare the young campaign aide as part of a coordinated Western intelligence operation.

The memo, which served as a pretext for the opening of an investigation into the Trump campaign, did not indicate that Papadapolous or anyone else on the Trump campaign had coordinated with Russia to obtain the information, Downer said.

“There was no suggestion — [neither] from Papadopoulos nor in the record of the meeting that we sent back to Canberra — there was no suggestion that there was collusion between Donald Trump or Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians,” Downer said.

“All we did is report what Papadopoulos said, and that was that he thought that the Russians may release information, might release information, that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign at some stage before the election,” he continued.

Papadopoulos, who was living in London at the time, was introduced to Downer by Australian diplomat Erika Thompson, who also attended the meeting in which he and Downer allegedly discussed the Russians’ plan to damage Clinton. Papadopoulos has publicly speculated that Downer was working with Joseph Mifsud — a Maltese academic who reached out to him claiming to have access to damaging information about Clinton — to entrap him and damage the Trump campaign.

Papadopoulos was also contacted in September 2016 by Stefan Halper, an FBI informant who offered him $3,000 to write a policy paper on the natural-gas market in the Mediterranean.

Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers last month that he has formed a team to examine whether the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign was properly predicated, addressing top Republicans’ concerns that the probe was motivated by political bias.

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