President Donald Trump pressed Australia's Prime Minister during a recent phone call to help Attorney General William Barr with his review of the origins of the Russia probe, according to an official familiar with the call.
The call happened with Barr's knowledge and at his suggestion, says the official. The New York Times first reported this call.
ABC is reporting other nations may be involved.
NEW: It's not just Australia. A DOJ official tells @ABC that AG Barr asked President Trump to initiate introductions between him and the leaders of Australia **and Italy.** Official confirmed Barr's trip last week to Italy was related to his review of the Russia investigation.
— Alex Mallin (@alex_mallin) September 30, 2019
The official notes this is seeking assistance with the review, which is being conducted by US Attorney John Durham, and so is seen as appropriate and completely different from the Ukraine matter. Justice Department officials say that it is appropriate for the attorney general and the President to seek help from foreign countries with an investigation of 2016 election interference.
Durham is examining what intelligence came from other countries that propelled the investigation that eventually became the Trump-Russia probe.
An official briefed on the matter said the attorney general has asked the President to request the help of several countries, including Australia, with the Durham review.
Officials believe that requesting foreign help with a retrospective look at 2016 election interference differs vastly from Trump's request made in the Ukraine call transcript released last week.
A rough transcript released by the White House shows Trump repeatedly pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's potential 2020 political rival, and his son Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden.
The transcript was released in response to news of a whistleblower complaint that alleges Trump abused his official powers "to solicit interference" from Ukraine in the 2020 election and that the White House took steps to cover it up. Trump has denied any wrongdoing
Even before the whistleblower complaint was made available to lawmakers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared Trump had betrayed his oath of office, and she announced this past week that she was opening a formal impeachment inquiry into the President.