Trump asked Scott Morrison to help discredit Mueller
President Donald Trump asked Scott Morrison to help gather information for an inquiry to discredit the Mueller investigation, according to two American officials with knowledge of the call.
Mr Trump initiated a phone call with the Australian Prime Minister a few weeks ago explicitly to push him to help show that the Mueller investigation had "corrupt and partisan origins", the New York Times reports.
It shows the extent to which Mr Trump sees the Justice Department inquiry as a way to gain leverage over America's closest allies.
An Australian government spokesperson has confirmed the conversation took place, saying: "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."
It comes as the President is facing an impeachment inquiry over a phone call with the President of Ukraine, from whom Democrats say he requested a political favour in exchange for US military aid.
The FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in the US election began after Australian officials tipped off the bureau about Mr Trump colluding with Russia to release damaging information on his opponent Hillary Clinton.
In late 2017, the Times reported that the FBI launched the investigation after Alexander Downer, a top Australian diplomat, told US officials that Trump campaign foreign policy aide George Papadopoulos boasted to him that he had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands" of emails.
Mr Papadopoulos told Mr Downer he received the information from Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic who was last seen working as a professor in Rome before disappearing.
Mr Papadopoulos has tweeted in response to today's bombshell report, saying he was "right about Downer from the beginning".
I have been right about Downer from the beginning. A wannabe spy and Clinton errand boy who is about to get exposed on the world stage. Great reporting, NYTs! Mifsud is next.— George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) September 30, 2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation confirmed Australia had played a central role in the origins of the FBI investigation, although his final report did not mention the country by name.
It said information from a "foreign government" prompted the FBI to "open an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign were co-ordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities".
The pre-election period included a conspiracy that the Obama administration dispatched Mr Downer to spy on the Trump campaign as part of a broader effort to help Ms Clinton get elected.
Addressing the Times report on ABC radio this morning, Mr Downer said he has no knowledge of the latest revents about his role in the origins of the probe.
"I don't know anything at all about conversations Scott Morrison has had with Donald Trump," he said.
"I just have nothing more to say about it. I had a conversation with this guy (George Papadopoulos) and passed on one element about it," he added. "I can't offer you any more information.
"I know nothing of the conversations that Scott Morrison has had with the Americans, including President Trump about this, insofar as there have been any. I just don't have a clue."
More to come …