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Australian Govt denies Trump man's Downer "deep state" plot claim

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The Australian government has dismissed claims by a former Trump campaign aide that former foreign minister Alexander Downer was a spy and part of a “deep state” plot before the 2016 US presidential election.

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George Papadopoulos, who was charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller with lying to the FBI and sentenced to 14 days’ prison last year, is touring the US to promote his new book, Deep State Target.

The book details his version of drinks he had with Downer, who was then Australia’s high commissioner to the UK, at a London bar six months before Trump was elected.

“Our diplomats routinely and openly engage with election campaigns overseas, including US presidential campaigns,” a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told AAP.

“The Australian government categorically rejects any allegation that it sought somehow to interfere in the US presidential election.”

The meeting between Papadopoulos, Downer and High Commission official Erika Thompson has been credited as one of the first incidents to lead the FBI to open an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Downer, in an interview with The Australian newspaper, claimed Papadopoulos mentioned during the drinks that Russia had damaging material on Trump’s election rival Hillary Clinton and might use it in the lead-up to the election.

Papadopoulos has denied Downer’s claim.

Downer said he reported the information to Canberra “the following day or a day or two” while The Wall Street Journal, quoting a diplomatic source, reported Downer passed Papadopoulos’ Russia information directly to the ­US embassy in London.

Papadopoulos has joined calls from Republican members of Congress for Trump to declassify early warrants and other documents to determine how the FBI’s Russian probe first began.

Papadopoulos claims if his Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act file was declassified by the president, it would reveal the roles Australia and the UK played in the lead-up to the election.

“I also believe that whatever is in there it is so damaging to both the Australians and the UK that there is a reason they have been the most adamant partners imploring President Trump not to declassify my file,” Papadopoulos said.

Trump was on the verge of declassifying documents in September last year but said on Twitter he opted against it, citing “key allies” who asked him not to.

Papadopoulos also says congressional sources have told him a transcript exists of his London bar conversation with Downer.

A transcript would prove Downer taped their conversation, Papadopoulos said.

-AAP

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