SYDNEY - Australia has confirmed that U.S. President Donald Trump asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help investigate the origins of the Mueller report. The request to assist an investigation led by Attorney General William Barr reportedly came shortly before Morrison’s visit to the United States last week.
Australia has said it will use its “best endeavors” to cooperate with a Justice Department investigation into Robert Mueller. His probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was in part prompted by a former Australian foreign minister and diplomat.
Alexander Downer reported that a member of Donald Trump’s campaign team, George Papadopoulos, was aware of Russian attempts to discredit former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate in the 2016 U.S. national election.
Downer told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he has nothing more to add to his reporting of that conversation in May 2016.
“It is not just that I do not want to keep repeating myself but I have just got nothing more to say about it. I mean, I had a conversation with this guy and passed on the conversation, or that one element of the conversation to the Americans. I mean, there is nothing more to it. I cannot offer you anymore information and I know nothing about conversations that Scott Morrison has had with the Americans, including President Trump,” said Downer.
Papadopoulos has denied ever discussing such details. He served a short prison term last year after lying to the FBI about meetings he had with alleged go-betweens for Russia.
It is reported that Australian officials have been asked by the Trump administration to find evidence to discredit the Mueller review.
It angered President Trump, who has dismissed the investigation into Russian interference in the election as a "witch hunt."
In May, Trump said U.S. Attorney-General William Barr would look into how the Mueller inquiry started. The FBI probe did not establish that the Trump campaign criminally conspired with the Russians to influence the 2016 election, although it did not clear the president of collusion.
In Canberra, opposition politicians now want to know if Australia is being used by President Trump to disparage his critics.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is one of Trump’s closest international allies, and was feted at a state dinner at the White House last week.