New details have emerged regarding George Papadopoulos’ role in the Russia investigation, according to a report published by the New York Times on Saturday. The report says Papadopoulos met with an Australian diplomat in London in 2016 where he allegedly claimed Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
At the time, Papadopoulos was reportedly a member of Donald Trump’s foreign policy adviser panel and met with Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat. According to the report:
“During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.
Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.”
According to the New York Times, this revelation was one motivating force “that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.”
As Salon previously reported, Papadopoulos is a key figure in the ongoing Russia investigation, in which he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, but his role has been continuously understated by the Trump administration.
When asked in November what his role was with the Trump campaign, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "It was extremely limited; it was a volunteer position. And again, no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign in that regard."
According to a CNN report, Papadopoulos’ legal team didn’t respond to their request for comment to confirm the NYT report. Ty Cobb, Trump’s White attorney reportedly also declined to comment, but said the following:
"Out of respect for the Special Counsel and his process, we are not commenting on matters such as this," Cobb said in a statement according to CNN. "We are continuing to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel in order to help complete their inquiry expeditiously."