- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
- Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that relations between the US and Australia remain strong after the US media reported that a top Australian diplomat passed along information to US officials that helped spark the FBI’s Russia probe.
- The New York Times reported that former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos told Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK in May 2016 that Russia had compromising information on former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
- According to Australian media, the country’s ambassador to the US then passed along the information to American officials, prompting the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign’s alleged Russia ties.
Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Monday that relations with the US are in “excellent shape” after The New York Times reported that a top Australian diplomat provided information to US officials that helped spark the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
According to the report, early Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos told Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, that Russia had compromising information on Hillary Clinton while the two were drinking at a swanky London bar in May 2016.
Two months later, after the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks posted a trove of hacked Democratic National Committee emails online, Australian officials informed their US counterparts of Downer’s conversation with Papadopoulos, which helped prompt the FBI’s probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives in the US presidential election.
Asked about the report, Turnbull said he had not spoken to US President Donald Trump about the news, and added he was not worried “at all” about potential backlash, Australia’s ABC reported.
“The relationship is in excellent shape and the connections between Australia and the United States are so diverse, numerous, so strong, and indeed, our relationship through the State Department is excellent as well,” Turnbull told reporters, according to the ABC.
Turnbull added that his government would not make additional comments “on a matter that relates to an ongoing investigation in the US.”
Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on Monday that US officials learned of Downer’s conversation with Papadopoulos when Joe Hockey, Australia’s ambassador to the US, passed the information along to them.
According to Fairfax, Hockey’s personal involvement in the matter was a sign of how politically sensitive the Australian government considered Downer’s information to be.
Downer has not commented on the report.
The bureau opened its Russia probe in July 2016. President Donald Trump and his allies have dismissed the investigation as a Democratic “witch hunt” spurred by a dossier, which was compiled by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, and contains a number of explosive claims related to Trump and the Kremlin.
The Times’ report indicates that Papadopoulos, not the dossier, played a pivotal role in driving the FBI to open the investigation.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to one count of making false statements to investigators about his contacts with Russians during a January 27 interview with the FBI. He is now likely cooperating with investigators.
Sonam Sheth contributed to this report.