US President Donald Trump personally reached out to Scott Morrison to ask him for help with US Attorney General William Barr’s investigation into the origins of the “Russiagate” scandal, which led to a years-long criminal probe into whether there was “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Moscow in the run up to the 2016 US presidential election.
According to a report in the New York Times, Trump broached the subject in a recent call with Morrison (it took place sometime over the past few weeks). Trump’s people then reportedly restricted access to the transcript of the call. From the Times’ story:
“The discussion with Mr. Morrison shows the extent to which Mr. Trump views the attorney general as a crucial partner: The president is using federal law enforcement powers to aid his political prospects, settle scores with his perceived “deep state” enemies and show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt, partisan origins.”
Once Russiagate fizzled out, the Trump administration immediately began investigating whether his predecessor, Barack Obama, had a hand in initiating the scandal. Specifically, some have claimed that the Obama administration enlisted former foreign minister Alexander Downer to help undermine the Trump campaign (Downer has denied this).
That, presumably, is why Trump contacted Morrison asking for his cooperation.
Experts are split—along partisan lines—on the question of whether the call to Morrison was kosher.
George J. Terwilliger III, former deputy attorney general under Barr in the ‘90s, said the president was within his rights:
“There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the president asking a foreign leader to assist in a U.S. investigation. A request for help with the weight of the president behind it is bound to get greater foreign attention.”
A former Justice Department official under Obama had a different reaction.
“It would be extremely unusual for the attorney general to be this personally involved in any investigation, let alone one where his personal integrity has already come under question,” he said. “It is even more inappropriate that he is so closely involving the president when the entire probe is something the president repeatedly demanded to settle scores with people he sees as enemies.”
A spokesperson for Morrison confirmed the conversation with Trump happened, stating, “the Australian government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation. The P.M. confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the president.”
News of the call comes as an impeachment inquiry, led by Democrats in the House of Representatives, picks up steam. The basis of the inquiry is a similar call made by Trump to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he encouraged Zelensky to look into allegations that Joe Biden, former vice president to Barack Obama and Trump’s main political rival at the moment, interfered with a corruption investigation in Ukraine involving Biden’s son.
In the meantime, you can watch Trump implode in real time via Twitter. Here’s a sample: “The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306. Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!”