George Papadopoulos, a New Yorker who served as a volunteer to the Trump campaign, has issued a series of tweets that implicate the intelligence services of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Turkey in spying on the campaign. In one tweet, he claims that erstwhile President Barack Obama knew about the spying. Papadopoulos implicates a high-level Australian diplomat, and other figures connected to various intelligence agencies, who had sought to block Donald Trump’s election.

The details of Papadopoulos and associated persons are encyclopaedic and full of still unanswered questions about the motivations and identities of those involved. Papadopoulos has been called the first domino to fall in a chain that ultimately resulted in an FBI probe into supposed links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He confided to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that in May 2016 that the Russians possessed comprising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and her “thousands of emails” and that a mysterious intermediary offered to share them with the Trump campaign. After widespread media reports of the hacking of the Clinton campaign, the FBI began an investigation of the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos was interviewed by the FBI, and ultimately pleaded guilty to making false statements to the agency. He then cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In a tweet on Thursday, Papadopoulos wrote: “Repeat: the British and Australian governments were illegally spying on the Trump campaign by April 2016. Let that sink in.” This was the latest of a string of tweets going back to August.

In an interview on Fox News, Papadopoulos said on Wednesday that the Downer’s intentions of were “suspicious.” It was their 2016 meeting that sparked Crossfire Hurricane: the FBI investigation into supposed links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Downer said that Papadopoulos told him that Russian sources obtained derogatory information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to The Daily Caller.

Downer also said that he later told the Australian government about Papadopoulos’ remarks about Clinton. Once the FBI found out about Papadopoulos and his allegations, it began its investigation on July 31, 2016, which was just after WikiLeaks published emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee. “The environment and the people I was meeting that led to that meeting with Downer was incredibly suspicious. And it was clear that this meeting was completely controlled, and it was not a random attempt by Alexander Downer to invite me for a drink,” Papadopoulos said in an interview Tuesday on Fox News.

Downer downplayed Papadopoulos’s assertions, telling the BBC that there was “nothing nefarious” about the “banal” meeting at a London bar in May 2016. In a BBC interview on Wednesday, Downer said, “My recollection is very clear … the reason I don’t talk about this, isn’t that there’s anything nefarious about it, it’s a pretty banal sort of a story in all honesty.” Downer was Australia’s high commissioner to the UK at the time. He dodged further questions from the BBC about his encounter with Papadopoulos. “I was the Australian high commissioner,” Downer said. “The thing is, I’m just not going to get into these sort of allegations he’s made. I mean, people who have worked with me, and people in Australia who know me, know absolutely my record.”

In his series of tweets, Papadopoulos suggests that Australian, British, and Turkish interests had reasons to sabotage Donald Trump’s election. He also noted that he had high-level contacts in the British government, including an aide to UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. He also noted that he was selected to take UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s personal congratulation note to then-president-elect Donald Trump.

“The is why their nationals were the ones that were sent as spies. This is much more complicated than anyone can imagine. Stay tuned,” Papadopoulos tweeted on Wednesday.

The reason, Papadopoulos wrote, for the foreign governments’ interest, was that Woodside -- an Australian oil company -- was “actively competing with American oil companies trying to do business in Israel and Cyprus. I was advising American companies at the time. No wonder Downer wanted to talk oil in London and then began recording me with his phone.”

In an earlier tweet, Papadopoulos said that Erika Thompson, “Downer’s intelligence officer assistant” had been spying on him in April 2016 before the “‘professor’ learned of the dirt?’” This was an apparent reference to Stefan Halper, an associate of Hillary and Bill Clinton and adviser to the CIA, or Joseph Mifsud -- a Maltese academic who is rumored to have been a source for various intelligence agencies and was a supposed intermediary between Russia and the Trump campaign. He remains missing.

He identifies Halper as representing British intelligence, Downer and Thompson with Australian intelligence, and Azra Turk with Turkish intellingence, who “all spied on an American citizen and [Trump] campaign.” Moreover, Papadopoulos claims that “Obama, [CIA chief John] Brennan, and [former National Intelligence director James] Clapper knew.” Both Brennan and Clapper have continued to come to the defense of the Obama legacy and have dismissed claims of illegal activity.

Papadopoulos has said in the past that he does not remember talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails (which came under FBI scrutiny because she used a private server during her time as secretary of state). But he did tell the FBI in January last year that Mifsud told him in April 2016 that he had learned that the Russian government had “thousands” of Clinton emails. Erstwhile FBI Director James Comey did not pursue criminal charges against Clinton for the security breach. This summer, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the timing of his contacts with Mifsud. He was sentenced to 14 days in jail on Sept. 7. Papadopoulos, however, has denied seeing, handling or disseminated Clinton’s emails. He does not recall telling the Trump campaign about Mifsud’s claims. There has been no evidence brought to light that Downer spied on Papadopoulos, who said that the Australian recorded their conversation with a cell phone.

Papadopoulos was also approached by former Cambridge university professor Stefan Halper, who flew Papadopoulos to London in September 2016. At a meeting there with Halper, Papadopoulos has said that the former professor asked about Russia and Clinton's hacked emails.

In May 2016, Papadopoulos told the The Times of London newspaper that erstwhile UK prime minister David Cameron should apologize for describing Trump as "divisive, stupid and wrong." Papadopoulos said it would be "wise" for Cameron to "reach out in a more positive manner" to the the future president.

In December 2015, Cameron criticized Trump during debate in parliament over whether to ban Trump from the UK because of the candidate’s proposal to limit immigration from Muslim-majority countries. Cameron told the House of Commons that he opposed a travel ban on Trump, but added: "I think his remarks are divisive, stupid and wrong. If he came to visit our country I think he would unite us all against him." In a September 10 tweet, Papadopoulos wrote that it was “odd” that Downer ordered him to stop “bothering his good friend David Cameron. And told me my views were hostile to British interests.” In another tweet, he identifies Downer as a “Clinton friend” who is connected to Britain’s MI-6 intelligence probing him for information about Israel, but failing to discuss the relationship between the US and Australia.

In October 2017, the Huffington Post published a story about Papadopoulos titled: "Robert Mueller flipped a Trump campaign adviser. That's bad news for the White House." It predicted that charges against Papadopoulos would become a "much bigger part of the Russia investigation" than charges that Department of Justice was to pursue against Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. By flipping Papadopoulos, Democrats and others critical of Trump had hoped that he would provide revelations embarrassing to the president. Manafort ultimately pleaded guilty to tax evasion, and is still facing further litigation for matters unrelated to the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos has not made public statements condemning President Trump since his legal troubles began. Nor has Manafort.


Meeting with my national security team in #WashingtonDC. #Trump2016

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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