Remember Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat whose report on conversations at a London bar with George Papadopoulos is said to have triggered the FBI’s concern about links between the Trump campaign and Russia? The Hill reports that Downer was behind a big contribution to the Clinton Foundation.
According to the Hill’s John Solomon and Alison Spann, Downer played a key role in securing $25 million in aid from his country to help the Clinton Foundation fight AIDS. He and Bill Clinton signed the memorandum of understanding that made it happen.
The Clinton Foundation won praise for helping fight AIDS in South Asia, say Solomon and Spann. However, it also drew criticism from auditors about “management weaknesses” and inadequate budget oversight.
With Downer’s involvement in the Russia story, Clinton friends and supporters now comprise 100 percent of the sources whose information prompted and fed the counter-intelligence investigation in its early days. Christopher Steele, who played the lead role, was paid by the Clinton campaign (through cut-outs). Sidney Blumenthal, a long-time friend and associate of the Clintons, funneled information to Christopher Steele through the State Department. And, of course, their information was processed at the FBI by ardent Clinton supporters like Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe.
To be clear, the connection between Downer and the Clintons doesn’t mean the information he provided about his conversation with Papadopoulos is false. The key bits of information reportedly were that Papadopoulos had meaningful contacts with well-connected Russians and that the Russian had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty of lying to the FBI regarding “the timing, extent and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.” It wouldn’t be surprising if Papadopoulous, over lots of drinks, bragged to Downer about Russia connections. It’s also quite possible that he told Downer the Russians had dirt on Clinton.
Still, the fact of Downer’s connections to the Clintons raises questions. One wonders how Downer and Papadopoulos came to have their conversation in the first place. Was it a chance meeting or a set-up?
And to what extent was Downer a reliable, impartial interpreter of exactly what Papadopoulos told him and the trustworthiness of what he said? To what extent, if any, did Downer’s relationship with the Clintons cause him to make more of drunken bar talk than he should have?
Members of Congress are complaining that the FBI did not disclose Downer’s connection to the Clintons in testimony to relevant committees. Rep. Jim Jordan says the non-disclosure underscores the need for a special counsel to investigate the FBI’s conduct regarding the Trump-Russia investigation:
The Clintons’ tentacles go everywhere. So that’s why it’s important. 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.
Whether or not one agrees with Jordan’s conclusion, his premise seems true. The Clinton’s tentacles are, indeed, far-reaching. That’s how a Russia collusion story that seemingly has nothing behind it has roiled America for more than a year.