Donald Trump, at the urging of his top law enforcement official, Attorney General William Barr, pressured Australia’s prime minister to help him debunk the report on 2016 election shenanigans done by special counsel Robert Mueller.
That’s according to the New York Times, which cites sources telling the news site that Trump made the ask during a recent phone call.
Neither the White House nor the Justice Department, which Barr leads, had any comment for the Times.
However, as the Times explains, the reported episode involving Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison seems to show the level of comfort Trump has about using his office for his personal gain—especially coming on the heels of Trump’s own admissions about seeking the president of Ukraine’s help in digging up dirt on Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter.
The latest Times report also shines a new spotlight on the Mueller report, in which Mueller said he found much evidence of Russian interference in the election that put Trump into the Oval Office, but left it up to Congress to decide whether Trump obstructed justice or committed a crime.
According to the Times, White House officials tried to obscure evidence of Trump’s Australia call in much the same way as the White House did with Trump’s call with Ukraine—by restricting access to the call’s transcript to a small group of Trump aides.
In addition, according to the news site, Trump’s call to Australia’s Morrison was made “only weeks after Mr. Trump seemed to make military aid to Ukraine contingent on [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky doing him the ‘favor’ of helping Mr. Barr with his work.”
The Australia conversation was apparently part of a continuum in Trump’s attempts to “discredit” the damning Mueller report, the Times notes.
As the Times explains, concerns about Russian interference in the 2016 election—and Trump’s potential collusion—got their start after Australian authorities told the FBI that Russia had contacted the Trump campaign about giving the Trump team dirt on Hillary Clinton. Australian officials, according to the Times:
shared that information after its top official in Britain met in London in May 2016 with George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who told the Australian about the Russian dirt on Mrs. Clinton.
And for anyone who may not recall, Papadopoulos was one of the first of Trump’s circle to get swept up in Russia-gate. He eventually pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia dealings and was sentenced to 14 days in jail.