President Donald Trump asked Australian prime minister Scott Morrison to assist Attorney General William Barr in tracking down information regarding the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into now-debunked collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, according to the New York Times.
The request, according to the Times, was initiated by Barr, who asked Trump to seek Morrison’s help in obtaining the information. The telephone conversation reportedly occurred weeks after the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky regarding U.S. military aid and the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President and 2020 White House candidate Joe Biden. The Trump-Zelensky July 25th call is the subject of a partisan CIA officer’s complaint in which it is alleged — based on secondhand information — that the president pressured Zelensky to probe the Biden family. Both Trump and Zelensky have denied the allegations and the White House, in a nod to transparency, released a transcript of the foreign leaders’ call last week to demonstrate no wrongdoing occurred.
During the 2016 election, Australian officials told the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that Trump campaign associates and members of the Russian government were in contact regarding the imminent release of Hillary Clinton’s emails, prompting the bureau to probe so-called Russian election interference.
One-time Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos allegedly told Alexander Downer, then-Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, in May 2016 that Russia was in possession of emails related to the Hillary Clinton campaign. When the hacking of the Democrat National Committee became known in July 2016, Australian officials disclosed Papadopoulos’s remark to U.S. authorities, which sparked the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos served 14 days in prison after pleading guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI. Further, the 32-year-old was sentenced to 12 months of supervised release and 200 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay a $9,500 fine.
In May of 2019, Barr assigned John Durham, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, to examine the origins of the Operation Crossfire Hurricane — the FBI’s Russia investigation — to determine whether intelligence collected on the Trump campaign was “lawful and appropriate.” Durham has received briefings concerning the “four corners” of the bureau’s use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants as part of its counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign. “Durham is specifically reviewing the FISA warrant obtained by the FBI to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page, as well as general issues relating to surveillance during the 2016 campaign and matters flowing from the FISA process. Fox News is told Durham would handle the prosecution of any criminal action he might uncover,” Fox News reported in June.
The Times further reports that President Trump has also asked Morrison to examine his country’s tips to the FBI to determine whether they were tainted by political bias.
In response to the Times’ report, Morrison’s office affirmed its commitment to assist the Trump administration with its request for information about the Mueller probe. “The Australian government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation,” its statement read. “The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the president.”