Australia Feuds With Graham Over Trump-Russia Probe

Joe Hockey looks on at the B20 Australia Summit in Sydney July 18, 2014. REUTERS/Nikki Short/Pool
October 4, 2019 Topic: Politics Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: AustraliaMueller ReportLindsey GrahamWilliam BarrRussia

Australia Feuds With Graham Over Trump-Russia Probe

The ambassador wasn't happy with the senator's characterization.

Australia’s ambassador to the U.S. disputed Sen. Lindsey Graham’s characterization of the role that a former Australian diplomat played in the series of events that led to the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign.

Joe Hockey, the ambassador, posted a letter to Twitter on Thursday responding to Graham’s request that the leaders of Australia, Italy and the U.K. assist Attorney General William Barr in an investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.

Graham, a close ally of President Donald Trump, sent a letter Wednesday to the foreign leaders asking them to assist Barr’s inquiry.

In the section referring to Australia, Graham referred to now-retired Australian diplomat Alexander Downer’s contacts in May 2016 with George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser.

Graham referred to Downer as an “Australian diplomat who was also directed to contact Papadopoulos and relay information obtained from Papadopoulos regarding the campaign to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

But Hockey disputed Graham’s description.

“In your letter you made mention of the role of an Australian diplomat. We reject your characterisation of his role,” Hockey wrote.

“As you have requested, we will work closely with the Attorney General to resolve any misunderstandings in this matter.”

Mr Chairman this is Australia’s response which we sent to your office last night

— Joe Hockey (@JoeHockey) October 3, 2019

“I can assure you that the Australian government is cooperating with Attorney General William Barr’s inquiry,” he added.

Hockey was likely disputing Graham’s claim that Downer, who served as Australia’s high commissioner to the U.K., was directed to make contact with Papadopoulos.

Downer and Papadopoulos met on May 10, 2016 in London at the request of an aide to the diplomat. Downer wrote a memo after the meeting in which he said that Papadopoulos claimed Russia might help the Trump campaign close to the November 2016 election.

Downer reportedly thought little of the remark until WikiLeaks began releasing stolen DNC emails in July 2016. The Australian government then provided Downer’s memo to the FBI, which opened Crossfire Hurricane.

Papadopoulos says he does not recall making the remarks to Downer. He has also floated the theory that Downer was sent to spy on him during the London meeting. Downer has previously denied the allegation.

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Image: Reuters.