Former Trump campaign adviser George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosDrama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry Fox & Friends host says program will ‘absolutely’ accept Mueller report findings Source of Steele dossier info sought access to Trump allies in 2016: report MORE reportedly prompted the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election by drunkenly revealing knowledge of Russian opposition research on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders expected to announce exploratory committee next week Bernie Sanders records announcement video ahead of possible 2020 bid Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants MORE

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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 TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job 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.