Former Trump campaign adviser George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosCalif. man ensnared in Mueller probe sentenced to 6 months in prison The Mueller investigation: Where it stands at the midterms Mr. President, tear down the wall hiding those FISA abuses 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 ClintonBudowsky: Closing message for Democrats Election Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach GOP mocks Clinton after minor vehicle collision outside Mendendez campaign event 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 TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East 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.