According to a report published by the New York Times on Saturday, Papadopoulos made the revelation to Alexander Downer, the Australian high commissioner to the UK, “during a night of heavy drinking” at the Kensington Wine Rooms in London in May 2016.
Papadopoulos reportedly told Downer that Russian officials possessed thousands of emails that could harm Clinton’s candidacy.
Australia is part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance, with the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. When WikiLeaks began publishing hacked emails from Democratic officials two months later, Australian diplomat officials passed the information to their US counterparts, the Times report stated. The FBI then began its investigation.
White House lawyer Ty Cobb declined to comment, saying in a statement that the administration was continuing to cooperate with the investigation now led by special counsel Robert Mueller “to help complete their inquiry expeditiously”.
In October, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the nature of his communications with the Russians. He is said to have been cooperating since July with special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed in May to oversee the federal inquiry into links between Trump and Russia.
The White House has sought to portray Papadopoulos as a low-level staffer whose contacts with the Russians were made independently. The Times report said court documents showed Papadopoulos repeatedly tried to coordinate a meeting between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin and notified senior campaign officials of his efforts.
The Times report comes as Republicans have escalated their attacks on the independence of Mueller’s investigation, zeroing in on the FBI’s use of a dossier regarding links between Trump and Russia compiled by a former British spy, Christopher Steele.