Robert Mueller
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We’ve all watched as Republicans and right-wing media have attempted to smear, and even criminalize, former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele in order to undermine the Mueller investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. But now they have a new villain.

Former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer met George Papadopolous in a London bar one night and was told that the Russians had supplied the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton. He reported that conversation to the FBI, which is what started the investigation back in July 2016. Of course, that makes Downer the latest victim of the smear merchants, with John Solomon once again posing as the media mouthpiece.

The Australian diplomat whose tip in 2016 prompted the Russia-Trump investigation previously arranged one of the largest foreign donations to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable efforts, documents show.

Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer’s role in securing $25 million in aid from his country to help the Clinton Foundation fight AIDS is chronicled in decade-old government memos archived on the Australian foreign ministry’s website.

I’m sure that Solomon was probably salivating at the chance to tie their latest victim to the Clinton Foundation, his favorite target. But here’s the deal: that $25 million to fight AIDS in Asia was committed in February 2006, more than a year before Hillary entered the 2008 presidential race and three years before she became secretary of state in the Obama administration.

But the bigger issue is that Downer didn’t contribute the money personally. Even Solomon has to write that the aide was “from his country.” He throws out a line about Downer’s role in securing the aid, but never elaborates. Take a look at how Steve Doocy got tripped up on all of that this morning on Fox & Friends when even his co-host Brian Kilmeade had to do a little on-the-spot fact checking.

Signing a memorandum of understanding back in 2006 regarding his government’s decision to invest money in the Clinton Foundation to fight the AIDS epidemic in Asia is supposed to make Downer into some kind of political puppet for the Clintons, who smeared Trump by going to the FBI with what…a fabricated report about something he heard from Papadopolous? While that last part isn’t a claim made by anyone at this point, it is clearly the insinuation.

To be fair, Solomon did include a response from the Australian Foreign Ministry, which said that “the Clinton grant was handled like all its other $2 billion annual foreign aid awards, and it ultimately helped thousands in Asia gain access to antiretroviral AIDS medications.” To underscore the point that these conspiracy theorists are willing to trash anything that gets in their way, here are some of the outcomes of this partnership, according to the Australian Foreign Ministry:

Providing HIV testing to more than 22,000 pregnant Papua New Guinean women to help prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. The partnership helped diagnose infants with HIV early in 21 of PNG’s 22 provinces.

Providing HIV testing to 60,242 and 2,606 new enrolments in HIV care to Indonesians. CHAI also contributed to an increase in antiretroviral treatment coverage in Papuan provinces from 3 percent to over 50 per cent.

Placing over 5,000 Vietnamese children on antiretroviral treatment by mid-2014, exceeding the end of the program target of 3,900 by June 2015.”

The smear merchants are fine with demonizing all of that as long as it helps them turn Downer into their latest villain and protects those who were complicit with Russia’s attempt to interfere in our elections. It has become common to comment on how low these folks are willing to go, but it sure feels like the pit is bottomless.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.