US Senator Lindsay Graham has sent a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to cooperate with a White House investigation despite the media storm whirling around it. As I wrote in another post, Morrison’s office confirmed that, in a recent phone call with Donald Trump, the prime minister was asked to help the White House determine if former President Barack Obama’s administration recruited Australian officials to spy on Trump’s campaign on behalf of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The Australian official in question is former foreign minister Alexander Downer, who is accused by some pro-Trump people of having been “directed” by the Obama administration, or perhaps the Clinton campaign, to contact and meet with a low level Trump campaign operative named George Papadopoulos.
In 2016, Downer met Papadopoulos at a bar in London. During their conversation, Papadopoulos allegedly said that “the Russians” had damaging material on Hillary Clinton and were prepared to share it with the Trump campaign.
Downer reported this to Australian intelligence personnel, who then relayed it to the FBI, helping to spark the Russiagate saga and the Mueller investigation.
Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Downer denied that he was acting on behalf of Trump’s political opponents.
“Of course I wasn’t ‘directed,’” he said.
Out for revenge, Trump has sought to establish that the opposite is true. To that end he contacted Morrison and asked for assistance. News of this call has added fuel to the flames engulfing the American leader, currently the target of an official impeachment inquiry.
In his letter, Senator Graham asked for Morrison’s “continued cooperation”:
“I write to request your country’s continued cooperation with Attorney General [William] Barr as the Department of Justice continues to investigate the origins and extent of foreign influence in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
It doesn’t look like Trump has much to worry about. Morrison stated that he is “ready to assist and cooperate” with the probe, even suggesting that he would consider handing secret government documents over to American investigators. But he ruled out releasing diplomatic cables, saying:
“It would be a very unusual thing to do and Australia would never do anything that would prejudice our national interest.”