It all began following a May 2016 meeting in London between Australian diplomat and politician Alexander Downer and Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
At that meeting, Papadopoulos told the then-Australian High Commissioner that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton and was prepared to help the campaign.
Papadopoulos denies this version of events and in his book, suggests he was set-up by a “deep state” operation run by a network of spies.
Downer has been described as “the man at the heart of the Trump/Russia investigation,” or at least the impetus for the US Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference in the US 2016 presidential election.
Two months after the meeting, the Australian government shared a three-page advisory about the details of that sit-down with US intelligence.
The Australian government has not publicly and officially confirmed the meeting even took place. It did today.
The 300-page redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirms Papadopoulos told Downer Russia was prepared to help Trump by dropping the dirt it had on Clinton.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. It Wasn’t the Steele Dossier, It Was Downer & Papadopoulos’ Meeting in London That Sparked the FBI Russia Investigation
“What prompted FBI Russia inquiry? ‘It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America’s closest intelligence allies,'” Peter Baker of the New York Times tweeted shortly after the Muller report was released.
The Times first reported on the meeting in 2017.
As the report details began to emerge Thursday afternoon, recollections were refreshed.
“Meanwhile, in the reality based community, Australia reminds us the FBI investigation into Trump began because a Trump aid bragged to former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer about the Trump campaign being fed dirt on Clinton by Russia.”
Albeit not named in the report, Downer is nonetheless featured and identified as a “foreign government representative” who told the U.S. government that he met with Papadopoulos in 2016.
“Mueller Special Counsel asserts (Papadopoulos) suggested to foreign government representative (presumably Alexander Downer) that Trump campaign knew Russians had Hillary dirt that could be dropped.”
Mother Jones investigative reporter David Corn, who helped to introduce the Steele Dossier and was among the earliest of reporters digging into alleged Russian interference in the US 2016 election and the Trump camp’s possible involvement, tweeted about the Downer/Papadopoulos meeting references in the Mueller report.
“Mueller’s report: Australian diplomat Alexander Downer says Papadopoulos told him on May 6, 2016 that he had been told that the Russian government could assist Trump campaign by releasing anonymous information damaging to Clinton…”
“So the Trump campaign was informed of how the Russians might attack the election to help Trump? And when an attack came, the Trump campaign denied it was happening!”
2. The Australian Government Confirms the Meeting & Its Reach-Out to US Officials. The Mueller Report Also Confirms the Meeting, But What Papadopolous Told Downer
BuzzFeed News battled the Australian government for more than a year trying to get access to the correspondence that government had with US officials after the meeting between Downer and Papadopoulos. Thursday, just a few hours before the release of the Mueller report, the outlet reported that “a senior foreign official said his department was ready to confirm the meeting and release redacted documents …”
Those documents included a three-page cable about the Downer-Papadopolous meeting: “The cable titled “UK: US: Donald Trump – Views from Trump’s Adviser [redacted]” runs to three pages and briefly outlines how the high commissioner met with Papadopoulos the previous evening to “discuss Trump’s foreign policy priorities.”
Read the full Mueller report here:
This is the 2016 meeting where Papadopoulos said Russia was willing to help the Trump camp.
3. Downer Weighed in on Twitter Noting What Papadopoulos Said Was ‘His Choice’
“I hate to spoil everyone’s fun but my meeting with George Papadopoulos was not at anyone’s request. We just thought he might be interesting as he was a minor player with the Trump campaign! What he said was his choice, not mine!”
Downer did tell an Australian media outlet in 2018 that what he was told by Papadopoulos did not include statements that Trump was personally involved.
The Mueller report says that the US intelligence community first heard from the Australians about the meeting between July 22 and July 26, 2016. And says that Papadopoulos told Downer Russia “could assist” the Trump campaign.
4. Papadopoulos Denied Telling Downer Anything About the Trump Camp & Russian Dirt on Hillary Clinton. He Claims he was ‘Set-up’ by the ‘Deep State’
“Mueller Special Counsel asserts (Papadopolous) suggested to foreign government representative (presumably Alexander Downer) that Trump campaign knew Russians had Hillary dirt that could be dropped. Papadopoulos denies this in his book, suggests it’s part of a setup.”
In his book “Deep State,” Papadopoulos alleges “firsthand account that proves the attempted sabotage of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign by American and international intelligence services …” He claims his “global network, clandestine meetings about Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails, and rift with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions made him the first target of Spygate, the Mueller Investigation, and the Russian Collusion Hoax.”
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to charges he lied in the Special Counsel investigation and spent a few days locked up. He says he was “set up.”
As a “Deep State Target, there was an intricate set up at play, and it was neither Trump nor the Russians pulling the strings.”
The Amazon synopsis of his book reads: “American and allied intelligence services set out to destroy a Trump presidency before it even started. An energy policy consultant working for the insurgent campaign, Papadopoulos encountered a rogues’ gallery of infamous figures employed by agents from the US, Britain, and Australia. Here, he gives the play-by-play of how operatives like Professor Joseph Mifsud, Sergei Millian, Alexander Downer, and Stefan Halper worked to invent a Russian conspiracy that would irreparably damage the Trump administration.”
The brief reads like the tome is a spy novela.
“Papadopoulos was there: In secret meetings across the globe, on city streets being tailed by agents, watching Jeff Sessions make false statements under oath about a strategy session he attended, and ultimately being interrogated by Mueller’s team and agreeing to a guilty plea. Deep State Target is a shocking account of international spy games and a disturbing eyewitness report on a secret double government—the Deep State—intent on destroying lives and a presidency.”
After the Mueller report was released, Papadopoulos tweeted, “There we have it folks. Next steps should be taken, as I state in the WSJ today, subpoenae (sic) the three spies: Joseph Mifsud, Alexander Downer and Stefan Halper. See if they were working for the same government, and coordinating. Release the transcripts of my meetings with them!”
5. Downer, a Race Car Driver & Married Father of 4, Thinks the Queen Should be Replaced With a President
Downer, 68, known previously as His Excellency, who studied at University of Newcastle upon Tyne, is the now former Australian politician and diplomat who once led that nation’s Liberal Party in the 1990s. He was Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1996 to 2007, and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 2014 to 2018.
In 2017, it was announced that Downer would join UK think tank Policy Exchange as Chair of Trustees. In June 2018, Downer became the Executive Chairman of the International School of Government at King’s College, London.
Downer supports replacing the Queen with a president.
Downer has worked with several US Presidential Administrations including those of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
Downer’s wife Nicky Downer is a widely known supporter of the arts and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2005 for her service to the arts. The couple has four adult children.
Downer is a race car driver who hit 250 kpm (155 MPH) in a V8 race in 2014.