Well into the second year of a Trump administration overshadowed by multiple investigations into allegations of Russian collusion during the 2016 election, new information has surfaced about one of the international players responsible for initially pushing for that ongoing probe.
Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was previously revealed as the individual who provided a tip regarding then-candidate Donald Trump that ultimately made its way to U.S. officials.
As The Hill reported this week, he also had a direct relationship with former U.S. President Bill Clinton as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump’s chief rival in the 2016 race.
Downer played a key role in shoring up a $25 million Australian investment in 2006 for a campaign to fight AIDS, which was being executed by an affiliate arm of the Clintons’ nonprofit charitable organization.
While the money — along with similar aid from three other foreign governments — was earmarked for a four-year program to help combat the spread of AIDS in Asia through testing and treatment, some Republicans see Downer’s subsequent role as the tipster behind the Trump-Russia investigation as a warning sign.
Australia’s News.com.au reported earlier this year that Downer met in May 2016 with George Papadopoulos, a Trump foreign policy adviser who signaled that Russian operatives possessed information that would be damaging to Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Following that allegedly alcohol-fueled encounter, reports indicate it was the leak of messages to and from Democratic National Committee accounts about two months later that prompted Australian investigators to share information from the meeting with American officials.
One congressman is particularly upset that the FBI, which itself has faced numerous allegations of bias in the Trump-Russia probe, did not reveal Downer’s prior ties to the Clinton Foundation.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who chairs one of the congressional subcommittees investigating the matter, said this revelation is important because it shows that the “Clintons’ tentacles go everywhere.”
Furthermore, he argued that this new detail adds to the perception among many in his party that federal investigators are not presenting a balanced representation of their case.
“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,” Jordan said.
Some of his counterparts on the other side of the aisle, however, see the two issues as wholly separate and do not believe any effort to support AIDS relief by Downer, who now serves as Australia’s U.K. ambassador, constitutes evidence of bias.
One spokesman for Hillary Clinton dismissed any connection between Downer’s prior work with the foundation and his subsequent role in the Russia probe.
According to CNN, Nick Merrill described the Republican argument as “laughable.”
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is his party’s ranking House Intelligence Committee member, went further by defending domestic and foreign intelligence sources against Republican attacks.
“The effort to attack the FBI and DOJ as a way of defending the president continues,” he said. “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.”
While Schiff predicted their alleged plan “will not succeed,” he warned that it “may do lasting damage to our institutions and allies in the process.”
Neither FBI nor Justice Department sources commented on the latest revelation.
Australian officials have defended the process by which the grant was approved, indicating that it was handled through the same process as all of its foreign aid and that the funding has provided access to AIDS treatment and screening for thousands of patients across Asia.
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