British intelligence involved in Trump election probe, sources say
1 October 2019, 23:10 | Updated: 2 October 2019, 09:36
US attorney general William Barr met British intelligence officials in the UK this summer as part of an inquiry into a US investigation of alleged links between President Trump's election campaign and Russia, according to sources.
An area of interest is understood to be the role played by one of Britain's most senior intelligence officials in helping the then-Australian ambassador to London share information with the FBI that he had received about alleged Russian meddling.
Sir Charles Farr, who died in February but was then chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, assisted Alexander Downer in 2016 after the Australian envoy was allegedly told by an adviser to then-candidate Trump that Russia had damaging information on Hillary Clinton, an informed source told Sky News.
The conversation between Mr Downer and George Papadopoulos at a London bar in May 2016 has been cited as the event that triggered an FBI investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The role played by Sir Charles, a highly-respected and long-serving intelligence officer, has not previously been reported.
Mr Papadopoulos, who was subsequently sentenced to 14 days in jail for lying to the FBI, has since denied telling Mr Downer about Russia potentially using material against Mrs Clinton.
However he has said a Maltese academic called Joseph Mifsud, who was living in Rome, told him weeks earlier Russians had "dirt" on Mrs Clinton.
The Washington Post first reported on Monday that the attorney general had made overtures to British intelligence officials.
The Guardian said on Tuesday Mr Barr met the British officials on 29 July at a gathering of the Five Eyes group of intelligence-sharing countries, which also include Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Listen to the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
Mr Barr also reportedly travelled to Italy last week with John Durham, the US attorney, who has been charged with reviewing US intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election.
They asked the Italians to assist Mr Durham with his inquiry.
President Trump hopes the investigation will discredit claims of collusion between his campaign team and the Kremlin but critics say it is chasing unfounded conspiracy theories.
The whereabouts of Mr Mifsud remain a mystery.
An Italian reporter found him in 2017 working as a visiting professor at a university in Rome but he has not been heard from publicly since.
Australia is also a focus of the Durham inquiry, with The New York Times reporting that President Trump pushed Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to assist Mr Barr with gathering information.
In Britain, as well as Sir Charles, another person of interest to the Barr team is thought to be former senior MI6 officer Christopher Steele.
He authored a sensational dossier that documented a series of alleged links between Mr Trump, his inner circle and the Kremlin.
Mr Steele, who left the Secret Intelligence Service in 2009 to set up a private company called Orbis Business Intelligence, has cooperated with a separate, ongoing Justice Department inquiry on the same topic.
Lawyers from the inspector general's officer - the department's internal watchdog - met him in London in June at the same time as President Trump made a state visit to the UK.
But a source close to Orbis said no-one related to the Durham inquiry, which the attorney general is assisting, had approached the company.
"Despite all this digging around, Orbis and Chris have never heard from these people," the source said.
Asked about Mr Barr's visit to the UK, a spokesperson for the British government said: "Investigations in the US are a matter for the US authorities. We won't comment on the ongoing investigations."
(c) Sky News 2019: British intelligence involved in Trump election probe, sources say