Mueller points to Aust role in Trump probe

Former Trump aide George Papadopoulos's meeting with Alexander Downer sparked the Mueller probe.
Former Trump aide George Papadopoulos's meeting with Alexander Downer sparked the Mueller probe.

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report details Australia's role in sparking the FBI's 2016 investigation into whether Donald Trump's election campaign co-ordinated with the Russian government.

The highly-anticipated report released on Thursday does not specifically name Australia but refers to "a foreign government", a move underlying the sensitive nature of Australia's involvement.

Mr Mueller's report also does not name Alexander Downer, who was Australia's high commissioner to the UK in May 2016 when he met with Trump campaign foreign relations adviser George Papadopoulos at a London wine bar.

The report refers to "a representative of that foreign government".

Mr Downer said on Thursday he had not read the Mueller report.

"Haven't seen it and don't follow those issues," he told AAP.

Mr Mueller devotes 14 pages of his 448-page report to Mr Papadopoulos.

Mr Downer acknowledged in an interview with The Australian newspaper last year he met with Mr Papadopoulos at a London bar and said Mr Papadopoulos told him Russia had damaging material on Mr Trump's presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

Mr Papadopoulos told AAP last month he did not mention anything about Russian dirt on Mrs Clinton to Mr Downer during their meeting at the London bar.

Mr Mueller's report states the London meeting prompted the FBI on July 31 2016, to open its probe.

"In late July 2016, soon after WikiLeaks' first release of stolen documents, a foreign government contacted the FBI about a May 2016 encounter with Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos," Mr Mueller wrote in the report.

"Papadopoulos had suggested to a representative of that foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"That information prompted the FBI on July 31, 2016, to open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were co-ordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities."

It was that FBI investigation that eventually led to Mr Mueller being appointed as special counsel to investigate Russian interference.

Mr Mueller investigated whether Mr Papadopoulos told Trump campaign officials about the potential Russian dirt on Mrs Clinton but Mr Mueller appears to have hit a dead end.

"Papadopoulos and the Campaign officials with whom he interacted told the Office that they did not recall that Papadopoulos passed them the information," the report states.

Mr Mueller's 22-month investigation found there was insufficient evidence to establish Mr Trump or his associates engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to disrupt the 2016 election.

Mr Papadopoulos was one of Mr Mueller's first prosecutions.

Mr Papadopoulos entered a guilty plea in 2017 to lying to the FBI and was sentenced to 14 days' prison.

Mr Mueller's report describes how Mr Papadopoulos met with Maltese Professor Joseph Mifsud in London on April 26, 2016.

Mifsud, after a trip to Russia where he met Russian government officials, told Mr Papadopoulos he had "learned that the Russians had obtained 'dirt' on candidate Hillary Clinton".

Australian Associated Press