Donald Trump pressed Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Attorney General William Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry into how Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation got started.
Trump, in a recent phone call to his Australian counter part, made the pitch at the bequest of Barr, The New York Times reported, citing officials familiar with the conversation.
It’s the second revelation that the president asked a fellow world leader to aid in a domestic political matter that could affect his re-election to the White House.
The White House also tried to restrict access to the call’s transcript to a small group of aides, a similar move to how the administration handled Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where he urged him to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
Additionally on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was revealed to have listened in on that call between Trump and Zelensky, the Wall Street Journal reported, pulling another member of the president’s cabinet into the growing impeachment inquiry into the president’s request of the Ukrainian president.
Donald Trump pressed Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Attorney General William Barr in an investigation – the two leaders are seen above at a September event in Ohio
Attorney General William Barr is gathering information for a Justice Department inquiry into how the Russian investigation got started
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was revealed to have listened in on that call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky
The call with Morrison came within weeks of Trump’s call to Zelensky, which the president denied was him pressuring the Ukraine into helping dig up dirt on one of his political rivals. Trump called it a ‘perfect’ call.
Morrison was in Washington D.C. earlier this month for a state visit and a posh state dinner in the Rose Garden of the White House, which Barr attended.
Neither the White House, the Justice Department nor Morrison’s government responded to The Times request for comment.
But an official told CNN it was an appropriate move on Barr’s behalf – to ask for the president to request assistance from a foreign government into a probe of the 2016 election – and different from the call with Zelensky.
Another official said Barr asked the president to request the help of several countries, including Australia, in his probe of how the Russia investigation started.
Additionally, Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials to ask for their help in his probe, The Washington Post reported.
The attorney general has spoken to British intelligence officials and he traveled to Italy last week, where he asked Italian officials for assistance.
The latest details about Barr’s personal involvement in the matter will likely raise more questions about whether he is helping the White House use executive branch powers to help the president politically.
Trump pushed for an investigation into how Robert Mueller’s probe began and has hoped to discredit the special counsel and his report, which found the president did not collude with Russians in the 2016 election but did make a determination as to whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.
Barr determined not to press charges in that matter, citing long-standing Justice Department policy of not charging a sitting president.
The attorney general, earlier this year, announced an investigation of his own into how the Mueller probe started and appointed career prosecutor John Durham to lead the inquiry.
‘I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,’ Barr told a Senate committee hearing in April of this year, noting he did believe ‘spying did occur’ on the Trump campaign.
He is looking into whether law enforcement or intelligence officials acted inappropriately when they began a counter-intelligence investigation into Trumps 2016 campaign out of concern it had been infiltrated by foreign agents.
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcome Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Jenny Morrison to the White House for a state dinner
Attorney General William Barr and his wife Christine Barr arrive for the Australian state dinner
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Susan Pompeo arrive for the State Dinner
Australia does play a central role into the Mueller investigation.
In 2016, Australian intelligence officials tipped off the FBI that Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos knew about the Russians having damaging emails from Democrats that could influence the election.
Papadopoulos told it to Australian ambassador to the UK in May 2016 and Aussie officials relayed the information to the United States after Wikileaks started publishing hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in July.
Papadopoulos, who was a foreign policy adviser to Trump in 2016, claimed he heard the Russians had ‘thousands’ of Hillary Clinton’s emails from Joseph Mifsud, a professor working in Rome.
Mifsud has since disappeared.
Papadopoulos made contacts with the mysterious Mifsud, who claimed Kremlin links and introduced him to other ostensibly well-connected Russians, including an alleged niece of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump pushed for an investigation into how Robert Mueller’s probe began and has hoped to discredit the special counsel and his report
In 2106, then-Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, seen on Fox News in March, told the Australian ambassador to the United Kingdom that Russia had Hillary Clinton’s emails
Papadopoulos suggested to the Trump campaign team that Trump and Putin should meet and pursued the sitdown even as it never came to fruition.
At a breakfast on April 26, 2016, in London, Mifsud told Papadopoulos that people in Moscow had ‘dirt’ on Clinton – information Papadopoulos later shared with the campaign.
In May of 2016 – also in London – Papadopoulos told the top Australian diplomat to the United Kingdom, Alexander Downer, that Russia was in possession of emails relating to Clinton.
In July, after the DNC hacking had become public, the Australians told U.S. authorities about Papadopoulos’s comment, leading the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s campaign in July of 2016.
Cambridge professor Stefan Halper was an FBI informant who approached Trump campaign advisers Carter Page, Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis about any potential ties to Russia.