Trump sought Australia’s help investigating Russia probe origins

Trump sought Australia’s help investigating Russia probe origins

Justice Department says US president asked foreign leaders to aid Attorney General William Barr with investigation as administration’s dealings overseas come under new scrutiny

US President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, September 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
US President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, September 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump recently asked the Australian prime minister and other foreign leaders to help Attorney General William Barr with an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe that shadowed his administration for more than two years, the Justice Department said Monday.

Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Trump made the calls on Barr’s behalf.

“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,” Kupec said.

Trump was requesting help for US Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The investigation outraged Trump, who cast it as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

Mueller wrapped up his report earlier this year with an inconclusive finding about Trump — the president was not charged with any crimes, but Mueller pointedly said he did not exonerate Trump. The president promptly called for an investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe.

US Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, May 1, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP)

Justice officials said that has involved seeking help from numerous foreign countries, including Australia. One official said Trump told Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the attorney general would be contacting his Australian counterpart.

Morrison’s office said in a statement, “The Australian government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation.”

“The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the President,” the statement said, referring to Morrison.

The revelation comes amid new scrutiny of Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders. The House opened an impeachment inquiry into Trump that centers on a July 25 call in which he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for help investigating Democrat Joe Biden.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives launched the official impeachment inquiry last week accusing Trump of a “mafia-like shakedown” of Zelensky in the call.

US President Donald Trump meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, September 25, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump and his allies claim Biden, as Barack Obama’s vice president, pressured Kyiv to fire the country’s top prosecutor to protect his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a gas company, Burisma Holdings, accused of corrupt practices.

Those allegations have largely been debunked and there has been no evidence of illegal conduct or wrongdoing in Ukraine by the Bidens.

But a transcript of the July call shows Trump pushing for Kyiv to revisit the matter, saying both Giuliani and Barr would be in touch.

For Democrats, that amounted to a smoking gun, leading House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to finally approve an impeachment process she opposed as a risky distraction from the 2020 battle.

Democrats have said articles of impeachment — formal charges — against Trump could be completed in as little as a month and swiftly voted on in the House, where the party has a majority.

If Trump is impeached by a simple majority vote in the 435-member House he would face a trial in the Republican-led Senate, where a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict him and remove him from office.

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