Alexander Downer has laboured for years in foreign policy. He worked as a diplomat before entering politics. He was John Howard’s foreign minister for 11 years. He was appointed by the United Nations to be a mediator in Cyprus. He was Tony Abbott’s High Commissioner to London, a position he will shortly relinquish after nearly four years. But his only real achievement in that field is likely to come from a night on the grog in London with a Trump aide in May 2016, during which said aide George Papadopoulos, whose lips were evidently loosened by copious quantities of wine, told him the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Papadopoulos would later become better known as the first of many Trump associates to plead guilty to charges brought as a result of Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s collusion with it.

You can mock the circumstances in which Downer acquired what turned out to be crucial information for that investigation, but he was doing exactly what a good diplomat does — collecting information and passing it back to his government. In this case, the information was relayed to US intelligence officials and provided the basis for an investigation into the collusion between Trump and the Russians.

Now Downer finds himself demonised as a left-wing minion of Hillary Clinton as the far right and Trump supporters attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation. What sent the right feral was an article linking Downer to an Australian government contribution to a Clinton Foundation initiative to fight HIV in 2006.

That Downer is an arch-conservative didn’t seem to occur to the reporters for The Hill. And it certainly hasn’t troubled too many Trump fans on social media, who think Downer is some sort of longstanding ally of the Clintons. Devin Nunes, one of Trump’s foremost Congressional protectors who has sought to derail the Mueller investigation at every stage, retweeted the story. “Who is Alexander Downer,” far right radio entertainer Sean Hannity opined overnight, after a long ad for a special pillow that helps him beat insomnia. “He helped raise $25 million for the Clinton Foundation… the FBI didn’t tell Congress about Downer’s prior connection to the Foundation.” “He has deep ties to the Clintons,” Hannity continued in his morning editorial.

Naturally, the far right on Twitter — bearing in mind a solid percentage of such accounts are Russian sock puppets — went berserk with this “bombshell” news, trying to connect Downer to uranium deals involving the Clintons, freemasonry and British royalty, and turning the Howard government’s foreign aid contribution into “long-standing” ties between Downer and Clinton (the best tweet — a conspiracy hipster complaining that he knew about Downer’s Clinton links ages ago).

While it’s amusing that Australia’s own Boy Mulcaster is now, in the bug-eyes of MAGA cap-wearing keyboard warriors, a left-wing agent of the evil Clintons, who would have ever guessed during his long and indistinguished years in diplomacy, that it would be Downer who might, in the end, be the one who started the process of killing off the Trump presidency?

Peter Fray

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