Australian officials are reportedly frustrated that one of the country’s diplomats was revealed to be the source of information that may have sparked an FBI investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The New York Times first reported on Saturday that former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer during a bar conversation in May 2016 that Russian officials were shopping damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Two months later, Australia relayed the conversation to the FBI. The information may have triggered the July 2016 investigation into Russian interference in the election.
The Sydney Morning Herald confirmed that sequence of events in a report Monday, adding that there is “annoyance and frustration” in Australia’s government that U.S. officials leaked the involvement of Downer to the press. Downer is Australia’s top diplomat to Great Britain.
The report also includes new details, including that Joe Hockey, Australia’s ambassador to the United States, was directly involved in discussions with the FBI over the Papadopoulos information.
In addition, the report says the two-month delay in passing the information to the FBI came because Downer did not realize the importance of what Papadopoulos had told him until July of 2016, when WikiLeaks began releasing hacked Democratic emails.
The link between the FBI probe and Australia is coming to light just a few weeks before Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull is scheduled to visit the U.S. Turnbull said Monday he was “not at all” worried that the revelation would impact his relationship with President Trump, according to Australian media.
The relationship between the two leaders got off to a rough start after Trump lashed out at Turnbull during a phone call in January. Trump took issue with Turnbull’s push for a refugee resettlement plan.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in late 2016 to lying to the FBI when he was interviewed as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.