According to the report, “in recent weeks” Trump has sought Morrison’s help for US Attorney General William Barr, who is overseeing an investigation of the intelligence community’s probing of Trump and his 2016 election campaign. Barr’s probe is part of the fallout of special counsel Robert Mueller’s March report, which found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. His investigation aims to find out why Trump and his affiliates were investigated in the first place, if no evidence of collusion existed.
An Australian government spokesperson verified the report in a statement to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Tuesday morning.
"The Australian government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation," the spokesperson said. "The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the president.”
The request is similar to one made by Trump in July of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump sought a probe into Democratic candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden for a 2016 incident in which Biden pressed Kiev to fire its prosecutor general and prevent an investigation of a gas company Biden’s son, Hunter, sat on the board of.
In April, Barr roused Democrats’ anger by referring to the FBI’s monitoring of the Trump 2016 campaign as “spying,” prompting figures such as FBI chief Christopher Wray to categorically reject the term.
Trump’s request from Canberra isn’t arbitrary: it was the Australian government that furnished the FBI with a tip that the Russian government had dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s rival in the 2016 election. The info was ostensibly blabbed by Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to Alexander Downer, Australia’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, but in an April interview with Sputnik, Papadopoulos denied having told Downer about the tip, which he in turn had gotten from a Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud.
Papadopoulos told Sputnik he was skeptical about both Mifsud’s claim and about Downer, who he believed to be recording their conversation. Papadopoulos, Mifsud and another Trump foreign policy aide named Carter Page were all hit with Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants later in 2016, which began the Russiagate investigation. Then-CIA Director John Brennan later presented the conclusions of the FBI, CIA, NSA and several other US intelligence agencies in a January 2017 report, but Mueller’s probe only began in May 2017 at Trump’s direction.
A report released later Monday afternoon by the Washington Post claimed that Barr has been meeting with several foreign intelligence officials, seeking their help in his counter-Mueller investigation. Like the NYT, the Post’s report relies on “people familiar with the matter.” However, US Department of Justice spokesperson Kerri Kupec issued a statement Monday confirming the report.
DOJ spox Kerri Kupec - who declined to comment for WaPo article on Barr/mtg with foreign countries - now out with statement confirming the report. pic.twitter.com/H9YQJS0Okq— Alana Abramson (@aabramson) September 30, 2019
“As the Department of Justice has previously announced, a team led by US Attorney John Durham is investigating the origins of the US counterintelligence probe of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign,” Kupec said. “Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries. At Attorney General Barr’s request, the President has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the Attorney General and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials.”
Following Trump asking Barr to open the probe in May, he told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on May 24 that the attorney general would “look at a lot of documents. Some he might find interesting; maybe he’ll find none interesting. But for over a year, people have asked me to declassify. So what I’ve done is I’ve declassified everything. He can look. And I hope he looks at the UK, and I hope he looks at Australia, and I hope he looks at Ukraine. I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.”