US President Donald Trump has again come under a media barrage after reports that he “pressed” Australia’s prime minister to assist in an investigation into the origins of Russiagate, which Canberra disputes.
In a report on Monday, the New York Times said the president “pushed” Austrialian Prime Minister Scott Morrison into cooperating with a Department of Justice (DOJ) probe tasked with looking into the origins of the ‘Russiagate’ investigation. While the Times itself acknowledges there was nothing “illegal [or] untoward” about the president’s request, the story posits similarities to Trump’s July call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, the fallout of which has transformed into a full-blown impeachment showdown in Washington.
Critics argue that, during the July call, the president threatened to withhold military aid in order to pressure Kiev into targeting former Vice President Joe Biden – an electoral rival – with an investigation. While a transcript of Trump’s conversation with Zelensky does not substantiate the claims of coercion, the Monday Times report suggests the call with Morrison was another example of a political shakedown spearheaded by the US president.
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Much like Zelensky, who dispelled notions that he was “pressured” soon after the allegations arose, a spokesman for Morrison also threw cold water on the narrative, stating the Australian government was “ready to assist and cooperate” with the DOJ investigation and required no prodding.
#breaking from federal government spokesperson: “The Australian Government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation. The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the President.”
— Andrew Greene (@AndrewBGreene) September 30, 2019
The fact that the Trump administration is reaching out to foreign governments to assist the DOJ probe should come as no surprise to the Times or anyone else. The DOJ has made no secret about its ongoing investigations into the Russiagate saga, while in June the department said its probe would look into the activities of “foreign intelligence services.”
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Later on Monday, soon after the Times report was published, the Washington Post took aim at Attorney General William Barr with a similar charge, ‘accusing’ him of working with foreign officials to carry out the investigation he’s vowed for months to deliver.
Is this news? Most of us realize that the Durham/Barr investigation has been underway for some time. It is both legal and appropriate to ask the countries involved to support the investigation. Just helping you catch up.
— Redwolf 🇺🇸🇮🇪🏴 (@Redwolf5858) September 30, 2019
Australia is relevant to the origins of “Russiagate” because the US intelligence community officials running the counter-intelligence of the Trump campaign – who later went on to become the president’s most outspoken critics – said it was a report by Australian diplomat Alexander Downer about Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that kicked it all off, not the so-called “Steele Dossier” compiled by a British spy in the pay of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
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