Politics

Letter Casts New Light On NYT Report That Trump ‘Pushed’ Aussies To Help With Probe Of CIA, FBI Activities

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter

Australia’s ambassador to the U.S. sent a letter earlier in 2019 offering Attorney General William Barr support in his investigation of the FBI and CIA’s activities in 2016, casting new light on a New York Times report from Monday that President Donald Trump “pushed” Australia’s prime minister to help with the probe.

Journalists in Australia published the May 28 letter shortly after the Times reported Trump pressured his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, to work with Barr on the investigation.

The Times story, headlined “Trump Pressed Australian Leader to Help Barr Investigate Mueller Inquiry,” began:

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.

White House officials limited access to a transcript of the call, similar to how the administration handled transcripts of Trump calls with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia and Saudi Arabia, the Times reported. (RELATED: Report: AG Barr Is Ramping Up His Investigation Of CIA, FBI Activities In 2016)

But far from a unilateral approach from Trump, Joe Hockey, the ambassador to the U.S., sent a letter to Barr offering assistance in the attorney general’s fledgling investigation into intelligence agencies’ actions related to the Trump campaign in 2016.

Four days before Hockey sent the letter, Trump said he hoped Barr would ask Australian and British leaders for information as part of the probe of FBI and CIA activities. A day prior to that, Trump granted Barr the authority to declassify documents related to the investigation.

“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,” Hockey wrote. “The Australian Government will use its best endeavors to support your efforts in this matter.”

Australia played a brief but significant role in the FBI’s investigation the Trump campaign.

The bureau opened the probe, known as Crossfire Hurricane, based in part on a memo that Australian diplomat Alexander Downer wrote following a meeting he had in London with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos on May 10, 2016.

Downer noted in the memo that Papadopoulos said Russia might release information beneficial to the Trump campaign close to the election. The Australian government provided the memo to its U.S. counterparts in late July 2016, after WikiLeaks began releasing emails that were hacked from the DNC.

Hockey said while Downer was no longer with the Australian government, Australian officials were “ready to provide you with all the relevant information to support your inquiries.”

Barr has met with intelligence officials in the United Kingdom and Italy as part of his investigation, The Washington Post reported Monday.

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