A letter emerged late on Monday from the Australian government that directly disputed the accuracy of a New York Times report that claimed that President Donald Trump “pushed” Australia to help Attorney General William Barr investigate the origins of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation in an attempt to “discredit” the investigation in what The Times claimed was an example of Trump “using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests.”
The letter, reported by Nine News Australia’s Kerrie Yaxley, is dated May 28, 2019, from Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey to Barr, and states:
Dear Attorney General,
I refer to President Trump’s announcement on 24 May that you will investigate the origins of the Federal Bureau of Investigations probe into Russian links to the 2016 US election.
I note that the President referred to Australia, the United Kingdom and the Ukraine as potential stakeholders. Moreover, I note that he has declassified intelligence material to support your investigation.
The Australian Government will use its best endeavors to support your efforts in this matter. While Australia’s former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, The Hon. Alexander Downer, is no longer employed by the government, we stand ready to provide you with all the relevant information to support your inquiries.
The Acting White House Chief of Staff, The Honorable Michael Mulvaney, has been copied on this letter.
The Hon Joe Hockey
The development comes after The New York Times tried to suggest that it was a scandal for Trump to ask for Australia to cooperate with an ongoing Department of Justice (DOJ) into the origins of the Russia investigation.
Shortly after The Times’ report was published, a source at the DOJ pushed back on it, telling Fox News: “The countries have been helpful. There was no pressing required.”
“The president was letting the heads of other countries know that the attorney general would be contacting the appropriate law enforcement entities in each country, according to the DOJ official. When Barr was in Italy last week, he did talk to law enforcement officials there about Durham’s review, Fox News was told,” the network added. “The DOJ official also stressed that this has been a routine procedure in diplomacy and that Barr would not usually reach out to his direct counterpart in another country unilaterally. Instead, usually there would be an introduction of sorts made at the head-of-state level.”
The flood of new information surrounding the DOJ’s investigation included new reporting from The Washington Post, which sought to cast Barr in a negative light for conducting his job, claiming that he was trying to help Trump “discredit” Mueller’s investigation.
The new and relevant information from the Post’s report was the revelation that Barr has been in contact with British intelligence officials and has traveled to Italy as a part of the ongoing investigation.
In May, Trump said of Barr: “And I hope he looks at the U.K., and I hope he looks at Australia, and I hope he looks at Ukraine. I hope he looks at everything because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.”
The DOJ responded to recent news reports with the following: “A Department of Justice team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is separately exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. While the Attorney General has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating.”