Trump Pressed Australian PM to Help in Probe of Mueller Inquiry Origins, NYT Reports

AG William Barr also met with overseas foreign intelligence officials seeking more information into origins of the probe, according to a Washington Post report

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Donald Trump speaks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, September 20, 2019.
Donald Trump speaks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, September 20, 2019.Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

President Donald Trump urged Australia's prime minister during a recent phone call to help U.S. Attorney General William Barr in an investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing two U.S. officials with knowledge of the call.

The White House restricted access to the call's transcript to a small group of presidential aides, one of the officials said, according to the Times. It was an unusual decision that is similar to the handling of a July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that is at the heart of a House of Representatives impeachment inquiry into Trump, the paper said.

A spokesperson for Australia's prime minister later confirmed that the conversation had occurred. "The Australian government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation," the Australian Broadcasting Corp. quoted an unnamed federal government spokesperson as saying.

"The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the president," the spokesperson added, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The spokesperson did not say when the call took place.

The Washington Post also reported Monday that Barr had met with foreign intelligence officials overseas to seek their help in the Justice Department inquiry into the origins Mueller's Russia probe, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

The Post said Barr had made overtures to British intelligence officials and last week traveled to Italy, where he and John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut who in reviewing U.S. intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election, met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham.

The Post added that Barr's involvement was likely to spur further criticism by Democrats who are pursuing an inquiry into impeachment of Trump.

Also Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena on Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, seeking documents in their impeachment inquiry.

The Democrat-run intelligence panel issued the subpoena in consultation with the House Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees. They said in a statement that Giuliani had said on national television that he asked the government of Ukraine to "target" former Vice President Joe Biden.

Giuliani was asked to hand over documents related to Trump's effort to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymry Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, a top contender for the Democratic nomination to run against Trump as the Republican president seeks re-election in 2020.

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