Trump Reportedly Pushed Australian Prime Minister to Help Barr Probe Origins of Mueller Inquiry

President Donald Trump asked the leader of Australia in a phone call to help his administration's Attorney General, William Barr, to probe the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation in a bid to discredit it, the New York Times reported on Monday.

The report is based off the accounts of two unnamed American officials with knowledge of the call between Trump and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison. Two of the sources told the Times that Trump initiated the discussion in recent weeks with Morrison explicitly so he could discuss the request. One source said that Trump raised the issue with his Australian counterpart at Barr's request.

The incident reportedly came just weeks after Trump withheld military funding from Ukraine. The president has been accused of withholding the aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his 2020 political opponent former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media before departing from the White House on September 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson/Getty

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One of the officials told the newspaper that the White House restricted access of the call's transcript to a limited number of the president's aides. Although it is unclear who was privy to the information, the Trump administration's alleged handling of the correspondence is similar to how they handled the president's call with Zelensky in July, which sparked an impeachment inquiry announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last Tuesday.

Trump's alleged Australia call also echoes his Ukrainian call in that both discussions show the U.S. leader using foreign diplomacy to advance his own political interests.

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"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," the Times reported, "and the extent that Mr. Trump sees the Justice Department inquiry as a potential way to gain leverage over America's closest allies."

In a statement emailed to Newsweek, a White House spokesperson confirmed the call, but asserted that Trump did not commit any wrongdoing.

"I'm old enough to remember when Democrats actually wanted to find out what happened in the 2016 election. The Democrats clearly don't want the truth to come out anymore as it might hurt them politically, but this call relates to a DOJ inquiry publicly announced months ago to uncover exactly what happened. The DOJ simply requested that the President provide introductions to facilitate that ongoing inquiry, and he did so, that's all," Hogan Gidley, the White House's deputy press secretary, said.

A partial transcript of Trump's call with Zelensky, released by the White House last week, proved that the president did ask Ukraine for assistance in investigating his political opponent and that he even offered Barr to help in the probe. The correspondence was so concerning that it prompted a whistleblower to file a formal complaint against Trump, accusing him of using his power in the Oval Office to solicit foreign interference.

However, Trump's phone call with Morrison deals with a Justice Department investigation and could be considered as falling more under the purview of the president's power as the chief executive.

Trump Reportedly Pushed Australian Prime Minister to Help Barr Probe Origins of Mueller Inquiry | Politics