Donald Trump asked Scott Morrison to help investigate origins of Mueller's Russia inquiry

1 October 2019, 07:43 | Updated: 1 October 2019, 10:23

Donald Trump has asked the Australian prime minister and other foreign leaders to help investigate the origins of the Russia inquiry which has dogged his time in the White House, administration officials have said.

In a phone call, the US president asked Scott Morrison to assist US Attorney General William Barr and US attorney John Durham's investigation into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

US Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Mr Trump made calls on Mr Barr's behalf.

"At Attorney General Barr's request, the president has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the attorney general and Mr Durham to appropriate officials," Ms Kupec said.

Canberra's link to the Mueller investigation, which Mr Trump has long dismissed as a politically motivated "witch-hunt," centred on a meeting between a senior diplomat and a Trump adviser in London in May 2016.

During a night of reportedly heavy drinking, George Papadopoulos told Australia's then-high commissioner to the UK, Alexander Downer, the Russians had a "dirt file" on Hillary Clinton.

Mr Downer reported the discussion to his superiors, was interviewed by the FBI and the results, which were sent to Washington in August 2017, reportedly laid the foundations for Mr Mueller's investigation.

Overnight, Mr Papadopoulos, 32, who was sentenced to 14 days in prison for his role in the Russian 2016 election interference, dismissed the latest developments, suggesting he had duped Mr Downer.

He tweeted: "Downer was a fool. I played him the entire meeting that I knew was designed to spy on my energy-related work and then to ask a bizarre last minute question about Clinton-Russia.

"The transcripts will prove it all, folks. They exist. The Australians already flipped on him."

The inquiry concluded in March, with neither criminal charges nor a clean bill of health for Mr Trump, who portrayed the outcome as "complete and total exoneration".

He demanded an investigation into the origins of the inquiry, which prompted the request to Canberra.

The news comes amid new scrutiny of Mr Trump's dealings with foreign leaders.

Last week, the House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump based on a call he made to Ukraine's leader asking for help investigating leading 2020 Democrat challenger Joe Biden.

The similarity is limited however, as while Mr Trump was withholding funds from Ukraine at the time and is accused of using that as an incentive to assist him, there was no so-called "quid pro quo" in the Australia situation.

Mr Trump responded to the impeachment allegations on Twitter on Monday, saying he "was looking for corruption", adding that, "by the way, the Bidens were corrupt!"

Mr Morrison's office said in a statement, "The Australian government has always been ready to assist and co-operate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation.

"The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the president."