U.S. President Donald Trump pushed Australia’s prime minister to help discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, the New York Times is reporting.
The Times reported Monday that during a recent telephone call, Trump asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to help U.S. Attorney General William Barr collect information for a Justice Department probe into Mueller’s investigation.
The paper said its sources were two U.S. officials with knowledge of the call.
The Times also reported that the White House restricted access to the call’s transcript to only a small group of officials, a move that is similar to the handling of Trump’s July phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
That call sparked a whistleblower complaint that led House Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry into Trump. The whistleblower alleges that Trump sought Zelensky’s help in digging up incriminating information about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter that would hurt Biden’s prospects of winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
The White House last week released a rough transcript of the call.
The Times said that during his recent call with Morrison, Trump wanted the Australian government to investigate that country’s role in the origins of the Mueller probe. The paper said the FBI’s investigations into Russian interference began as a result of information given to the FBI by Australian officials.
Barr recently began a review of the Russian investigation.
Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation found that the Trump campaign did not conspire with Russia to affect the outcome of the race. However, he reached no conclusion on whether Trump should be charged with obstruction of justice for instances in which he may have tried to sidetrack Mueller’s probe.