Australian prime minister says Trump asked him for help in Russia probe: ‘It was a fairly polite request’

‘The president contacted me and asked for there to be a point of contact between the Australian government and the US attorney, which I was happy to do,’ Scott Morrison says

Chris Riotta
New York
Wednesday 02 October 2019 18:03 BST
Whistleblower complaint over Trump's Ukraine call was credible

The prime minister of Australia said Donald Trump requested his government’s help in an investigation looking at the origins of the US probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Scott Morrison described a phone call he had with the US president in which he agreed to cooperate with the Trump administration’s new investigation as “fairly uneventful” during an interview with Sky News on Wednesday.

“The president contacted me and asked for there to be a point of contact between the Australian government and the US attorney, which I was happy to do on the basis that it was something we had already committed to do,” Mr Morrison said.

He also confirmed Australia had previously offered its cooperation in the probe that is being led by William Barr, the US attorney general Mr Trump nominated to oversee the Justice Department in December 2018.

Joe Hockey, the Australian ambassador to the US, wrote a letter to Mr Barr offering his assistance in May, according to Mr Morrison.

“We had said we were prepared to assist and cooperate in that investigation, which is not unusual, I mean the US is our most significant ally and we are used to sharing a lot of information,” the prime minister said.

“Now, Australia would never do anything contrary to our national interest but it would have been, I think, frankly more surprising had we chosen not to cooperate,” he added.

“I think it would have been quite extraordinary for us to deny such cooperation – on what possible basis could we do that?”

Australia has “nothing to hide,” Mr Morrison said, adding: “We are not the subject of this investigation, nor are we a party to it.”

The prime minister’s comments came shortly after reports, citing anonymous sources, alleged Australia would not provide the US with diplomatic cables relating to a meeting between Mr Trump’s former adviser George Papadopoulos and Alexander Downer, Australia’s former minister of foreign affairs.

Mr Morrison suggested while it would be highly “unusual”, he was not opposed to providing the documents as long as they did not interfere with national interests.

“All that simply happened here was the US Attorney is undertaking an official investigation and Australia had already stated in May that Australia would cooperate with such an investigation,” he said.

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Mr Trump has faced an escalating impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower complaint was filed by a reported member of the US intelligence community detailing another phone call he had with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, on 25 July, the day after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified about Russian interference in the election.

The president apparently urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate his 2020 political rival, Joe Biden, while also asking Mr Zelensky to look into unfounded allegations his country was responsible for US election interference rather than Russia.

Mr Trump has described the phone call as “perfect” and insisted he was not asking the Ukrainian leader to interfere in the next election cycle.

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