The New York Times deceptively framed a report on Monday that President Donald Trump had “pushed” Australian Prime Minister Scott Johnson during a phone call to help Attorney General Bill Barr with investigating the origins of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The Times stated that Trump made the push in an attempt to “discredit the Mueller investigation” in what the Times claimed was an example of Trump “using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests.”
Like the call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, the discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia shows President Trump using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests https://t.co/3hfYXjy5kH
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 30, 2019
Yet, a couple of sentences after claiming that this was Trump abusing his power to advance his interests, the Times noted: “Mr. Barr requested that Mr. Trump speak to Mr. Morrison, one of the people said.”
“The White House restricted access to the call’s transcript to a small group of the president’s aides … 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,” the Times reported, failing to acknowledge that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice recently said that the Obama administration essentially did the same thing. “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.”
The Times tried to portray the story as being an example of corruption by the Trump administration as Democrats are seeking to rapidly shift public opinion in an attempt to impeach the president, with some political analysts believing impeachment is the only way that Democrats can stop Trump from getting re-elected.
Nothing that is reported in the Times’ report is remotely controversial, as Fox News Journalist Martha MacCallum notes: “AG Barr is overseeing an investigation into the origins of the 2016 Russia probe. Common knowledge. The Australian Ambassador to London is involved. Does not seem unusual that this investigation would be discussed.”
AG Barr is overseeing an investigation into the origins of the 2016 Russia probe. Common knowledge. The Australian Ambassador to London is involved. Does not seem unusual that this investigation would be discussed.
— Martha MacCallum (@marthamaccallum) September 30, 2019
A source pushed back on The Times’ report, 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 Times buried the name of the individual at the heart of the request from the Trump administration, former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who tipped the FBI about a conversation that they had with Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos.
Trump’s desire to have Barr investigate this is no secret, as Trump said of Barr back in May: “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.”
“In April, former Australian diplomat Alexander Downer spoke publicly for the first time about his barroom conversation with President Donald Trump’s campaign adviser that would serve as a catalyst for the FBI’s collusion investigation,” The Daily Caller reported. “Downer, the former high commissioner to the U.K., said he asked another Australian diplomat to contact the Trump aide, George Papadopoulos, for the meeting, which occurred around May 10, 2016, at London’s Kensington Wine Room.”
“Downer also suggested the meeting was brief and Papadopoulos was not drunk, as has been widely reported,” The Caller added. “According to the profile, Downer and Papadopoulos spoke over a ‘single short drink.'”
The Hill reported in 2018 that Downer has strong ties with the Clintons and at one point “arranged one of the largest foreign donations to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable efforts.”
The DOJ has launched an investigation into the origins of the entire Russia probe, which is being led by U.S. Attorney John Durham.
The DOJ responded to recent news reports about the Ukraine story by stating 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.”
The Times added: “Former Justice Department officials said that Mr. Barr would need to ask foreign countries for cooperation in turning over documents pertaining to the 2016 election.”