Flat White

Tinker, tailor, Downer, spy?

17 September 2018

7:14 AM

17 September 2018

7:14 AM

It is a great pity that the Australian Senate does not have the same sort of inquisitorial role that the United States Senate does. Some of the US Senate’s enquiries are well worth watching. As Australians do not have a constitutional right to remain silent, I suspect an inquisitorial Senate enquiry would be quite revealing in many ways.

What brought the need for some such enquiry to mind was the re-emergence into the American press of our recently retired high commissioner to the United Kingdom and former foreign minister, Alexander Downer as an ongoing person of interest as the origin of the American saga about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The extent of Downer’s involvement and his purpose remain unclear despite some reporting of the events here.  Again in the American media last week, Downer’s role was being rehashed after George Papadopoulos referenced his use of fishnet stockings.

RealClear Investigations while analysing how the Department of Justice and the FBI used leaks to the press to damage Donald Trump, repeated that the New York Times in December 2017, used illegal leaked information from the FBI investigation that its Russian election interference enquiry began as the result of a tip from ‘another presumably apolitical foreign national, Australian diplomat Alexander Downer;’ note only presumably apolitical, which implies that Alexander’s actions might not have been apolitical?

What should interest us, however, is that the article refers to the original NYT article where Downer reported a conversation he had during “a night of heavy drinking” with Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos says he doesn’t remember saying anything to Downer about Russia. Downer is reported as saying now that they only had a single drink and a brief discussion. After that discussion, Downer reported back to Australia and that information was conveyed to the FBI, presumably at the insistence of prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

None of this would be all that important except on 11 September, Papadopoulos tweeted that the meeting was held at Downer’s insistence: “On the other hand Alexander Downer, wanted to meet under incredibly suspicious circumstances.” That meeting took place in May 2016, before the Presidential election. In another tweet, Papadopoulos said:

It is suspicious why an Australian diplomat would contact a relatively low-level adviser to a presidential candidate. We know what Downer says Papadopoulos told him; but why did Downer make contact in the first place? What was he hoping to find out? And ratting to the FBI on the future President of the USA with false information might just be the reason that Malcolm Turnbull got such a swift kick in the balls from Trump during that first telephone call.

What confirms the suspicion, however, is the extremely close relationship between the Clintons and Downer. It was reported in May 2018 that Alexander helped secure one of the largest donations worth $25 million to the Bill Clinton Foundation when he and former President Bill Clinton signed a “Memorandum of Understanding that purportedly dedicated the substantial funding to a project meant to provide screenings and drug treatment for AIDS patients in Asia.” It is reported in the same place that the money did not go to that Foundation but was rerouted through a Clinton affiliate which was criticised by auditors.

All of the above raise a reasonable suspicion that Alexander was actually working for someone in Hillary Clinton’s campaign; maybe Bill himself.

But here the story is obscured by two versions the same event. In one report, Downer, possessed of Papadopoulos’s information, passed it on to Elizabeth Dibble at the US London embassy. According to Fairfax, Downer passed the information back to Australian authorities who then passed it along to their American counterparts.  And it is reported, that Downer told The Australian that he had sent an official cable about what was said to Canberra within a couple of days of the meeting with Papadopoulos.

So now you can see the problem. It is highly probable that Downer did both” ratted to Elizabeth Dibble and sent a cable to Canberra. But Canberra is also reputed to have informed the  FBI and that would not have happened, if it did, without the knowledge of Malcolm Turnbull.

Sending gossip on the future President of the USA to the FBI might just be the reason that Malcolm Turnbull got such a swift kick in the balls from Trump during that first telephone call. The question that raises, however,  is, whether Downer was authorised by the Commonwealth government to make that contact, or whether it was a freelance job?


We don’t know, do we, because no one has bothered to make him give sworn evidence or has asked the Australian government whether the contact was part of Downer’s brief. It’s moments like this that you wish our Senators interests went a little bit further than their parochial back fence. Such an enquiry would probably help to repair the relationship between the US President and Australia that Downer’s actions jeopardised.

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