Some US Republicans are latching onto a dubious new theory about the Australian diplomat who was pivotal to launching the Trump-Russia probe

Getty Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Republicans have gone on the offensive against a top Australian diplomat.
  • On Monday, The Hill reported that Alexander Downer, Australia’s top diplomat in the UK, helped secure $US25 million in aid for the Clinton Foundation to combat AIDS in Asia.
  • Some Republican lawmakers suggested the report discredits Downer, who first told US officials in 2016 that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton after speaking with a former Trump campaign adviser.

The FBI’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow began after campaign aide George Papadopoulos boasted to a top Australian diplomat that Russia had dirt on then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Now some Republicans are suggesting that the diplomat in question, former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, was rooting for Clinton all along.

In 2006, Downer helped secure $US25 million in aid from the Australian government to the Clinton Foundation to combat AIDS in Asia, The Hill reported on Monday. Republicans are saying this fact wasn’t relayed to the FBI when it opened its investigation into President Donald Trump’s possible ties to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Some GOP lawmakers seized on the report to further the narrative that the process by which the FBI launched its Russia investigation in July 2016 was corrupt and aimed to destabilize then-candidate Trump in order to help Clinton.

“The Clintons’ tentacles go everywhere. So, that’s why it’s important,” said Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. “We continue to get new information every week it seems that sort of underscores the fact that the FBI hasn’t been square with us.”

Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who has been one of Trump’s most vocal defenders as it relates to the Russia investigation, reacted to the news with a suggestive tweet.

“Wow – per this new report, the Australian diplomat that supposedly prompted the Russian collusion investigation has ties to the Clintons,” Republican Rep. Mark Meadows said in a tweet on Monday, which Trump’s son, Eric, subsequently liked. “Every week it seems to become more clear: FBI leaders have not been upfront with us about this entire investigation.”

And on Monday night, Fox News commentator Sean Hannity called the story “a massive development.”

Democrats call the theory ‘laughable’

Democrats dismissed the report.

“The effort to attack the FBI and DOJ as a way of defending the President continues,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff told The Hill. “Not content to disparage our British allies and one of their former intelligence officers, the majority now seeks to defame our Australian partners as a way of undermining the Russia probe. It will not succeed, but may do lasting damage to our institutions and allies in the process.”

Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, said the Republicans’ suggestion that Clinton had any hand in Downer’s involvement with the Russia investigation was “laughable.”

In May 2016, Papadopoulos told Downer, who is now Australia’s top diplomat to the UK, about Russia’s dirt on Clinton while they were drinking at a swanky wine bar in London, according to The New York Times.

Two months later, when WikiLeaks posted a trove of hacked Democratic National Committee emails online, Australian officials informed their American counterparts of Papadopoulos’ conversation with Downer, The Times reported. The FBI began scrutinizing the Trump campaign’s Russia ties that month.