The scandal over President Donald Trump soliciting foreign election help spread to the southern hemisphere on Monday.
“President Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Attorney General William P. Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Mr. Trump hopes will discredit the Mueller investigation, according to two American officials with knowledge of the call,” The New York Times reported Monday.
Trump is already facing an impeachment inquiry after seeking dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The White House restricted access to the call’s transcript to a small group of the president’s aides, one of the officials said, an unusual decision that is similar to the handling of a July call with the Ukrainian president that is at the heart of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump,” the newspaper reported. “Like that call, the discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia shows the extent to which Mr. Trump sees the attorney general as a critical partner in his goal to show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt and partisan origins, and the extent that Mr. Trump sees the Justice Department inquiry as a potential way to gain leverage over America’s closest allies.”
“And like the call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, the discussion with Mr. Morrison shows the president using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests,” The Times added. “President Trump initiated the discussion in recent weeks with Mr. Morrison explicitly for the purpose of requesting Australia’s help in the Justice Department review of the Russia investigation, according to the two people with knowledge of the discussion. Mr. Barr requested that Mr. Trump speak to Mr. Morrison, one of the people said.”
Trump’s request of Australia was bizarre.
“In making the request, Mr. Trump was in effect asking the Australian government to investigate itself. The F.B.I.’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election began after Australian officials told the bureau that the Russian government had made overtures to the Trump campaign about releasing political damaging information about Hillary Clinton,” the newspaper noted.
Read the full report.
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) September 30, 2019