It was a throwaway boast over several glasses of vino at the trendy Kensington Wine Rooms in London that set off a chain of events that led to the Mueller report.
A Trump campaign adviser told a senior Australian diplomat that Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton – information that was dutifully fed back to Canberra, the capital city of Australia, and then, eventually, to Washington, D.C. – culminating in the official investigation.
Now, an Australia official has confirmed the chain of events between then high commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, and disgraced Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos.
The meeting between the pair was first reported in 2017 but Australia refused to confirm its role for reasons of national security – that is until the Mueller report was finally released.
In May 2016, Downer arranged drinks with Papadopoulos at the swanky tapas bar in a leafy corner of south-west London – where diners can embolden conversation over a $235 bottle of Médoc Bordeaux, just a stones throw from Kensington Palace.
Papadopoulos bragged that Russia had information on Clinton – information that would impact her campaign and boost that of his new employer’s.
When Wikileaks began publishing Clinton’s emails on its site some months later, Australian officials contacted Washington to tell them about the meeting, which led to investigators taking the first steps toward opening an official investigation.
Following a protracted campaign for information about the meeting that was so central to the investigation, Australian officials said that it would now ‘reassess its position’ in relation to the information request, ‘in light of the recent conclusion… into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.’
‘Notably, in light of the conclusion of that investigation, the Department is now ready to confirm that a meeting occurred between Mr. Downer and Mr. Papdopolous [sic], on 10 May 2016, whilst Mr. Downer was High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.’
The official said Downer’s cable had been heavily redacted because the full document could ‘reasonably be expected’ to damage Australia’s relationship with the US.
Papadopoulos spent 12 days in jail after he admitted lying to the FBI in October 2017 about his contacts with a British professor, Joseph Mifsud, who claimed to have disparaging information on Clinton.
Papadopoulos also publicly contradicted Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ sworn testimony to Congress last year, saying both Sessions and Trump supported his proposal that Trump meet with Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign.
“While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it. George’s giddiness over Mr. Trump’s recognition was prominent during the days that followed,” Papadopoulos’ lawyers wrote in a court filing.
Papadopoulos’ legal team said he shared with Mueller his recollections of the March 31, 2016, meeting.
Today, Papadopoulos urged Attorney General William Barr to investigate “spying” that might have occurred while he worked for the Trump campaign.
Papadopoulos suggested elements of the FBI were directed by the Obama administration to wound Trump’s chances of winning the presidency.
He has also requested a presidential pardon.