Via the NYT comes the things that splatter:
President Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Attorney General William P. Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Mr. Trump hopes will discredit the Mueller investigation, according to two American officials with knowledge of the call.
The White House restricted access to the call’s transcript to a small group of the president’s aides, one of the officials said, an unusual decision that is similar to the handling of a July call with the Ukrainian president that is at the heart of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. 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, and the extent that Mr. Trump sees the Justice Department inquiry as a potential way to gain leverage over America’s closest allies.
And like the call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, the discussion with Mr. Morrison shows the president using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests.
President Trump initiated the discussion in recent weeks with Mr. Morrison explicitly for the purpose of requesting Australia’s help in the Justice Department review of the Russia investigation, according to the two people with knowledge of the discussion. Mr. Barr requested that Mr. Trump speak to Mr. Morrison, one of the people said. It came only weeks after Mr. Trump seemed to make military aid to Ukraine contingent on Mr. Zelensky doing him the “favor” of helping Mr. Barr with his work.
In making the request, Mr. Trump was in effect asking the Australian government to investigate itself. The F.B.I.’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election began after Australian officials told the bureau that the Russian government had made overtures to the Trump campaign about releasing political damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Australian officials 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.
Downer recently blustered at the AFR:
I’ve never met Donald Trump and he may not want me in the White House anyway. One of his election campaign woodchucks told me the Russians might use intelligence they’d collected to damage Hillary Clinton’s election campaign.
Ever since then, in order to cover for his incompetence in telling a High Commissioner – an ambassador – something as extraordinary as that, the woodchuck has been spinning the most extraordinary conspiracy theory I’ve ever been involved in. I was part of a nefarious intelligence ring not of Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians but of America’s closest allies that wanted to destroy Trump’s candidacy! I was a Lefty campaigning with MI6, ASIS (Australian Secret Intelligence Service) and – of all countries – Ukraine – for Hillary!
Really? After nearly 12 years as John Howard’s foreign minister who stood side by side with the Americans in Iraq, who helped conclude an historic free trade agreement that has been hugely to our, and America’s, advantage, and who helped bully a reluctant Clinton administration to help us sort out security in East Timor, I find it hard to believe anyone with an IQ over 80 would believe that I was part of an intelligence operation to undermine America!
Well, to Donald Trump’s credit, he never employed this bloke in his administration! That’s at least partly because the woodchuck did time in jail for lying to the FBI!
Scuttlebutt extraordinaire. ScoMo has responded this morning:
“The Australian Government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation. The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the President”
With Trump impeachment now hanging Alexander Downer’s stockings the world can’t get much stranger.