Drunken boasting to an Australian diplomat in the U.K. by a volunteer tapped by the Trump campaign as a foreign policy advisor likely prompted the investigation into the campaign's potential collusion with Russian operatives.
During a night at London's Kensington Wine Rooms in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, revealed to Australian Alexander Downer that Russia had damaging information on Trump opponent Hillary Clinton, the New York Times reported.
After WikiLeaks began leaking emails pilfered from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and others affiliated with Clinton, Australia Intelligence reported Papadopoulos's revelations to U.S. intelligence, prompting the FBI to open a probe into Russian meddling into the U.S. presidential election, sources told the Times.
The president has repeatedly denied that members of his campaign colluded with the Russians to influence the election and when it became public knowledge that Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty and was cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the administration and its surrogates attempted to cast him as a low-level adviser.
Papadopoulos was arrested in July after investigators conducted a no-knock search of the home of former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, who subsequently was indicted for crimes against the U.S. and money laundering. The foreign policy adviser had been in touch with a London-based professor with ties to Russian government who claimed to have a raft of Clinton's emails and could deliver “dirt” to the Trump campaign.
He then began correspondence with a Russian woman who had attended the meeting with the professor – less than two weeks after the initial meeting he attended what was termed a national security meeting with Trump and other members of the campaign, court documents show.