A tip by a top Australian diplomat may have been what caused the FBI to begin its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, The New York Times is reporting.
According to report, published on December 30, a campaign adviser for then-Republican candidate Donald Trump, George Papadopoulos, told the diplomat, Alexander Downer, during a meeting in London in May 2016 that Russia had thousands of e-mails that would embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
After Democratic Party e-mails were hacked and leaked, Australia passed the information on to the FBI, the report said.
"The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the FBI to open an investigation in July 2016," according to The New York Times, which cited as sources four current and former U.S. and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the situation.
Former FBI chief Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to head the U.S. Justice Department probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and whether there were any links to the Trump campaign.
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with authorities.
Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer, declined to comment on The New York Times report, saying only that the U.S. administration is cooperating with the Mueller investigation.
Based on reporting by The New York Times and AP