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On Monday, the Department of Justice announced a slew of criminal indictments it was bringing against Chinese telecom giant Huawei by two different grand juries.
Accusing the firm of theft of trade secrets from rival company T-Mobile, obstruction of justice, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, bank fraud, and wire fraud, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker laid out a vast conspiracy where Huawei did business with an Iranian subsidiary, laundered vast amounts of money, and destroyed evidence.
But that’s not the only conspiracy going on here, according to Trump supporters and QAnon believers. Instead, they’re taking the indictments as proof of an even bigger plot: one between China and the Clinton Foundation to sabotage the Trump campaign.
How does one make the leap from violating obscure American business and intellectual property law to a vast conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton? Spend a few minutes in the minds of people who think literally everything is part of a vast conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton and it’s easy.
The first prominent person to posit such a theory was former Trump campaign official and Robert Mueller target George Papadopolous. On Twitter, the convicted felon laid out a plot involving former Huawei board member Alexander Downer, the Australian diplomat that Papadopolous let slip information about the hacking of Clinton’s emails—which Downer turned around and reported to the FBI.
“Alexander Downer was asking me a lot of questions about what Trump would do about Huawei if elected president. The US just filed criminal charges against the Chinese company, Downer used to be on the board of, for committing espionage against the US. Think.
Alexander Downer was asking me a lot of questions about what Trump would do about Huawei if elected president. The US just filed criminal charges against the Chinese company, Downer used to be on the board of, for committing espionage against the US. Think.— George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) January 28, 2019
Trump and QAnon Twitter took Papadopolous’ admonition to think and ran with it, adding the detail about the Clinton Foundation, specifically alleging that Downer was “responsible for funding the Clinton Foundation with $25,000,000 from the Australian government.”
So, the theory now goes, Downer interrogated Papadopolous for details about what Trump would do about a Chinese company spying on the U.S. and funneling money to Iran—money that likely had some connection to the Clinton Foundation, which Downer was already funneling money to.
Rabid Trump supporting Reddit thread r/The_Donald ran with the conspiracy theory (posting a link to a CNN story, ironically), and QAnon believers declared that it “DIRECTLY links Clinton pay-for-play to FBI/Obama illegal spy op against Trump to interfere with the election.”
So, is any of this true? And does it indicate that the DOJ is starting the long-awaited roll-up of Clinton cronies, Deep State offenders, and enemies of Trump?
The answers are “a little of it is true,” and “no.”
The details of the conversation that Downer and Papadopolous had are not entirely known, but there’s no reporting that suggests they discussed Huawei. Downer’s role with the company was limited only to being on the board of the Australian subsidiary of the Chinese giant, which he joined in 2011 and left in 2014 in order to move to London and take a position with the Australian embassy there.
The Australian subsidiary of Huawei isn’t charged in any of the DOJ indictments, and it doesn’t appear to have any link to what the parent company and its Iranian subsidy are alleged to have done. If the two men did discuss the company during their infamous drinking session in early 2016, it was after Downer hadn’t been involved for several years.
And while Papadopolous alleges that Huawei was indicted for “espionage against the US,” that’s not mentioned in the charges against them.
The conspiracy Papadopolous is spinning is appealing because it’s got elements that make conspiracy theories appealing, but he’s really not saying much other than Downer might have known that Huawei was breaking the law—even though there’s no reason to think Downer had any involvement in any of these alleged crimes.
The Clinton Foundation’s alleged link to all of this is just as tenuous.
1) Whitaker announced an indictment involving the Chinese company, Huawei, guess who was on the Board of Directors of Huawei?— jaci (@jaci_WWG1WGA) January 29, 2019
None other than Alexander Downer!!!
Downer is the Australian diplomat who was (a) responsible for funding the Clinton Foundation with $25,000,000 from
Conservative media outlets made a big deal out of a March 2018 story that Downer played a role in the Australian government making a $25 million donation to the Foundation, which was then routed through the Clinton Global Health Initiative (CHGI) to fight HIV/AIDS in Southeast Asia. The gift, made in 2006, wasn’t a secret and appears in publicly available Clinton Foundation materials.
But any link between any facet of the Trump/Russia investigation and the Clintons immediately sends conspiracy theories shooting off, so House Republicans and right-wing pundits pounced on it.
“The Clintons’ tentacles go everywhere,” declared Trump loyalist, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) at the time, asserting that the FBI kept this information from the Oversight and Government Reform committee to protect the Clintons and hamper Trump’s administration, while fellow House loyalist Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) tweeted ominously that “the Australian diplomat that supposedly prompted the Russian collusion investigation has ties to the Clintons,” while Sean Hannity chimed in that this news was a “massive development.”
It was not, and has scarcely been written about since.
When their connection was first exposed more than a decade ago, it just seemed like another shady Clinton deal. But now, it becomes clear that Huawei has been central to the Iranian efforts to evade first U.N. and then U.S. sanctions. The Clintons were apparently conspiring with.— TribunalWatch (@tribunal_watch) January 29, 2019
In reality, the Clinton Foundation received large donations from dozens of governmental, corporate, and individual sources. There’s little that’s noteworthy about the donation Downer secured, and similar gifts from agencies linked to Sweden, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and the UN were made to the CGHI. The Clintons are a connected enough business entity as to have links to almost every major organization imaginable. It’s hardly proof of a conspiracy.
In the end, it appears that Huawei was involved in an effort to steal American trade secrets, and do fraudulent deals with a country under sanction. What that has to do with the Russia investigation or the Clinton Foundation remains a mystery.
Mike Rothschild is a writer who specializes in researching and debunking conspiracy theories and fringe beliefs. He also writes about politics, history, and breaking news.