Answer: yes but, although it’s not clear if that means anything at all. Last night, The Hill’s John Solomon and Alison Spann reported that the man who reported his conversation with Donald Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos also arranged a hefty donation to the Clinton Foundation. While that may be a coincidence, the FBI’s failure to apprise Congressional investigators on that connection might be more of an issue:
The Australian diplomat whose tip in 2016 prompted the Russia-Trump investigation previously arranged one of the largest foreign donations to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable efforts, documents show.
Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer’s role in securing $25 million in aid from his country to help the Clinton Foundation fight AIDS is chronicled in decade-old government memos archived on the Australian foreign ministry’s website. …
Downer, now Australia’s ambassador to London, provided the account of a conversation with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos at a London bar in 2016 that became the official reason the FBI opened the Russia counterintelligence probe.
That point became a critical issue in the debate over the Steele dossier. Until the FBI made clear that it was Downer’s tip about Papadopoulos that started their initial investigation, critics claimed that the FBI had recycled unsubstantiated Hillary Clinton campaign research into a reason to surveil members of Donald Trump’s campaign. The Downer tip came in months prior to the dossier, which justified their initial interest — although there are still questions about how the FBI used the Steele dossier as probable cause for the FISC warrant.
Will this change the dynamic yet again? Downer’s connection to the Clinton Foundation now makes it appear that the Papadopoulos tip has a Clinton connection, too. However, this may just be a coincidence, and a thin one at that. Downer’s involvement in the $25 million donation from the government of Australia was ex officio, part of his job as Foreign Minister, and not personal. It preceded the Papadopoulos tip by ten years, during which time Downer has worked as Australia’s representative to the UN in the Cyprus peace talks, and then for the last four years as High Commissioner to the UK (an ambassadorial post), far away from the Clintons and their foundation’s aims. Earlier today, former UN ambassador John Bolton told WIND in Chicago that Downer has been “a friend to the US” and would likely have passed the tip along in that capacity alone.
The more pertinent question is why the FBI didn’t share the Downer connection to Congress when it briefed committees on his tip. But even that’s questionable, given the circumstances:
But lawmakers say the FBI didn’t tell Congress about Downer’s prior connection to the Clinton Foundation. Republicans say they are concerned the new information means nearly all of the early evidence the FBI used to justify its election-year probe of Trump came from sources supportive of the Clintons, including the controversial Steele dossier.
“The Clintons’ tentacles go everywhere. So, that’s why it’s important,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) chairman of a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that has been taking an increasingly visible role defending the Trump administration in the Russia probe. “We continue to get new information every week it seems that sort of underscores the fact that the FBI hasn’t been square with us.”
It’s possible that the FBI didn’t know about it. Should they have checked out Downer after getting the tip from him? Downer was and still is an official of the Australian government, a friendly country with no suspected malice to the US, so why would they run a background check on him for any potential connections to Trump’s political opponents? Even if the FBI had found it, though, they might have just considered it a piece of trivia. Again, Downer didn’t cough up $25 million out of his own pocket — he arranged the donation on behalf of his government at the time. It’s a connection only in the most literal sense.
Jordan appears to be complaining about a pattern of withheld information by the FBI, which has been a problem in the past. Paul Ryan has pushed Jeff Sessions to start cooperating with Congressional committees and to turn over all relevant material on a number of issues, a conflict which has not yet been entirely resolved. This instance, however, does not appear to be among the more serious of these.