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Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, in May 2016 allegedly revealed to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that Russian officials were shopping possible dirt on Clinton, likely implying that Russian officials were shopping them to the Trump campaign, The New York Times reported Saturday. 

Four former and current officials with knowledge of the situation told the Times that Australian officials then informed their U.S. counterparts, which may have then triggered the July 2016 investigation. 

The Australian diplomats forwarded the information when leaked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails began to surface online.

Papadopoulos apparently shared information provided to him by Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor with ties to Moscow officials, who told him that the Russians had "thousands of emails" obtained by hackers from the DNC that had yet to be released, and that detailed controversial dealings between Clinton and the DNC's fundraising apparatus.

It is unclear how much information the aide shared with Downer or how the topic came up. It is also not clear whether Papadopoulos had told the campaign at that point about his conversations with Mifsud.

Mifsud also introduced Papadopoulos to a Russian woman named Olga Polonskaya, falsely telling the campaign aide she was a niece of Vladimir Putin, in an apparent effort to connect the Russian president with then-candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIran claims it rejected Trump meeting requests 8 times ESPY host jokes Putin was as happy after Trump summit as Ovechkin winning Stanley Cup Russian ambassador: Trump made ‘verbal agreements’ with Putin MORE.

The two men reportedly corresponded for months on plans to have Trump and Putin meet. Court documents have previously confirmed Papadopoulos's attempts to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin. Papadopoulos reportedly told campaign adviser Stephen Miller, now a top White House strategist, that he had "interesting messages coming in from Moscow" and could arrange a possible trip to Russia.

The suggestion by Papadopoulos for a meeting between Trump and Putin later became a central focus of the Russia investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the campaign.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in November to lying to the FBI for misrepresenting his communications with Mifsud and Polonskaya during the course of the campaign. 

— Updated 1:32 p.m.