According to a report at the Daily Beast, Attorney General William Barr pressed officials in Australia for information on Robert Mueller's Russia investigation at the same time members of his Justice Department were assisting the Australians with hostage negotiations with Tehran.
In the exclusive report from Erin Banco and Lachlan Cartwright, they reveal that the conversations took place back in September before House Democrats sent articles on impeachment to the GOP-controlled Senate related to Donald Trump quid pro quo dealings with Ukraine while searching for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden.
According to the report, "In a series of conversations last September, senior Department of Justice officials worked with representatives of the Australian government to hammer out an arrangement to win the release of a pair of Australian bloggers imprisoned in Tehran," at the same time Barr was making inquiries about the genesis of Robert Mueller's investigation into the president's ties to Russia at the time of the 2016 election.
"Barr, like his boss, President Donald Trump, had long had a view of the Russia probe that bordered on hostile, and his review has been widely seen as an attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation, which led to the indictment of multiple Trumpworld associates. Just days before the culmination of talks in September—which coincided with an official Australian state visit—Trump himself pushed Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help Barr with this inquiry," the report states. "Barr followed up about the Mueller re-investigation, two U.S. officials and a third individual familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast, even as American and Australian officials finalized their arrangement to try to free the pair jailed in Iran. According to four sources—including those two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official—the American government agreed to help facilitate the release of the Australian bloggers, in part by agreeing to pull back from pursuing the extradition of an Iranian scientist held in Australia."
The report continues, "The discussions between Washington and Canberra raise questions about why the Department of Justice engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to help win the release of Australian hostages from Iran and whether the president’s request to have the country assist in Barr’s Russia inquiry influenced the department’s decision-making."
According to Claire Finkelstein, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, "This story suggests that the president is continuing to use the authority of his office to pressure foreign leaders into assisting him in covering up Russia’s assistance with his 2016 victory. This is the same conduct for which Trump was impeached, and the reporting suggests that he is undeterred.”
She added, "If the administration engaged in this swap as part of a deal with the Australian government in which it would support Trump’s counter-narrative to the Mueller Report, then department officials are actively using U.S. diplomacy to undermine our U.S. national security interests.”
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