Trump Pressed Australian Leader to Help Barr Investigate Mueller Inquiry’s Origins – The New York Times

Mr. Barr began a review of the Russia investigation this year with the stated goal of determining whether law enforcement or intelligence officials acted inappropriately in their decision during the height of the 2016 presidential campaign to begin investigating whether the Trump campaign was conspiring with Russia’s election interference. But the president has made no secret he sees a larger purpose: to validate his victory and to settle scores with his perceived “deep state” enemies.

The Justice Department said last week that it is exploring the extent to which other countries, including Ukraine, “played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign.” At the very least, Mr. Barr has made it clear that he sees his work treading into sensitive territory: how the law enforcement and intelligence agencies of the United States’ closest allies share information with American officials.

Mr. Mueller’s investigation confirmed that Australia played a central role in the origins of the original F.B.I. investigation, even if his final report does not mention the country by name. It said that information from a “foreign government” prompted the F.B.I. to “open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.”

But like so much about the pre-election period, the episode has been the subject of a counternarrative marbled with conspiracy: that the Obama administration had dispatched the Australian official, Alexander Downer, to spy on the Trump campaign as part of a broader effort to help Mrs. Clinton get elected.

There is no evidence to support this, but the conspiracy has been advanced by some of the president’s allies in Congress, by some Fox News commentators, and in frequent tweets by Mr. Papadopoulos, who was sentenced last year to two weeks in prison for lying to F.B.I. agents in the Russia inquiry who questioned him about any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intermediaries.

Mr. Morrison, the Australian prime minister, met Mr. Trump in Washington this month for official meetings and a state dinner at the White House. Mr. Barr attended the dinner.

The attorney general sparked a controversy in April when he said during congressional testimony that “spying” on the Trump campaign had taken place as part of the Russia investigation, and that there was a “failure among a group of leaders at the upper echelons” of the intelligence community. He later announced that he was reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation, and President Trump said, “I am so proud of our attorney general that he is looking into it.”

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