- The Aussie diplomat whose meeting with former Trump aide George Papadopoulos sparked the FBI’s collusion probe has provided his most detailed comments on the encounter so far
- In a radio interview, Alexander Downer dodged questions about allegations from Papadopoulos that was acting as a spy during the May 2016 meeting
- Downer did not directly address the claims, but said that he did “nothing nefarious” during the encounter
Former Australian diplomat Alexander Downer claims there was “nothing nefarious” in the meeting he had with former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that sparked the FBI’s investigation into possible Russian collusion.
Downer downplayed the May 2016 meeting as “banal,” in an interview with BBC Radio on Wednesday, while refusing to address Papadopoulos’ recent allegations that Downer was sent to spy on him.
“My recollection is very clear … the reason I don’t talk about this, isn’t that there’s anything nefarious about it, it’s a pretty banal sort of a story in all honesty,” Downer said in the interview.
Papadopoulos has recently questioned the circumstances surrounding his May 10, 2016 at a London bar with Downer, who then served as Australia’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom.
“The environment and the people I was meeting that led to that meeting with Downer was incredibly suspicious. And it was clear that this meeting was completely controlled, and it was not a random attempt by Alexander Downer to invite me for a drink,” Papadopoulos said in an interview Tuesday on Fox News. (RELATED: Papadopoulos Goes After Aussie Diplomat Who Sparked FBI Probe)
As The Daily Caller News Foundation first reported, Papadopoulos met Downer through Erika Thompson, another London-based Australian diplomat. Thompson was in turn introduced to Papadopoulos in April 2016 through an Israeli diplomat named Christian Cantor.
The meeting would eventually serve as the catalyst for Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.
Downer has claimed that Papadopoulos told him that Russia had derogatory information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Downer claims that he told others in the Australian government about Papadopoulos’ remarks. The FBI eventually caught wind, and opened its investigation on July 31, 2016, shortly after WikiLeaks published emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.
Though Papadopoulos says he does not recall discussing Clinton emails with Downer, he did tell the FBI in January 2017 that a Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud told him in April 2016 that he had learned that the Russian government had possession of “thousands” of Clinton emails.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the timing of his contacts with the mysterious Mifsud. He was sentenced to 14 days in jail on Sept. 7. He has denied seeing, handling or disseminated Clinton emails, while also saying he does not recall telling anyone on the Trump campaign about Mifsud’s remarks.
Downer has largely avoided discussing his interaction with Papadopoulos. He also skirted direct questions about Papadopoulos’ spy allegations.
“The reason I don’t say anything about it…is I don’t want this whole issue of Donald Trump and his team and the Russians and so on to interfere in Australia’s relationship with the United States,” he told BBC Radio, adding that “it’s a toxic issue.”
“In terms of public commentary, I just keep right away from it,” he said.
When the BBC Radio host asked if Papadopoulos’ allegations were inaccurate, Downer again dodged.
“Well, you know, it’s the same answer, really, people who know me know very well the truth of what sort of person I am,” he said, adding that “I’ve worked very passionately for Australia over many years, let’s leave it at that.”
“Can we put to rest the fact that he said you were a spy?” the host asked.
“I was the Australian high commissioner,” Downer said. “The thing is, I’m just not going to get into these sort of allegations he’s made. I mean, people who have worked with me, and people in Australia who know me, know absolutely my record.”
No evidence has emerged supporting Papadopoulos’ suggestion that Downer spied on him. However, the former Trump aide was approached by at least one known FBI informant. A former University of Cambridge professor named Stefan Halper flew Papadopoulos to London in September 2016 to meet under the auspices of discussing an academic paper about Mediterranean energy issues.
Papadopoulos says that during one meeting in London, Halper asked him about Russia and hacked emails.
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