ScoMo under fire over Trump request to help US A-G
Australia risks becoming collateral damage in US President Donald Trump's impeachment battle as he fights to identify the source of Russian collusion claims prior to his 2016 election.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison came under pressure yesterday after it was revealed Mr Trump personally asked for Australia to help US Attorney-General William Barr who is investigating the chain of events that led to the Mueller probe into Mr Trump's alleged Russian links.
The request, confirmed by the federal government, comes just days after it was reported Mr Trump allegedly pressured the President of Ukraine to help in the investigation, as well as dig up dirt on rival Joe Biden - kickstarting Democrat impeachment proceedings.
Australia's former top UK diplomat Alexander Downer helped trigger the initial investigation by former FBI head Robert Mueller into the Russian links. In May 2016 Mr Downer passed on information that Trump campaigner George Papadopoulos told him Russia had a dirt file on then-US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Mr Mueller confirmed information from "a foreign government" had prompted the FBI investigation but his report found there was no sufficient evidence of Russian collusion by the Trump campaign.
Mr Trump claims the FBI investigation into him was treason.
Australia's Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey yesterday released a letter he sent to Mr Barr on May 24 - well before the phone call between Mr Trump and Mr Morrison - offering Australia's assistance in his investigation. "The Australian Government will use its best endeavours to support your efforts in this matter," he said in the letter.
Mr Downer told the ABC yesterday: "I just have nothing more to say.
I had a conversation with this guy (Papadopoulos) and passed on one element about it. I can't offer you any more information."
But earlier this year he said it was "sad" if people believed there was a conspiracy among intelligence agencies to bring down the Trump administration.
One of the biggest promoters of conspiracy theories related to Mr Downer's actions is Mr Papadopoulos, who was jailed for 12 days for lying to the FBI about his contacts.
"I have been right about Downer from the beginning. A wannabe spy and Clinton errand boy," he tweeted yesterday. United States Studies Centre senior fellow Bruce Wolpe said the Trump request was a "surprise" but should "not become a very big deal".
Mr Wolpe said Mr Downer "did what he should have done" and the "only concern" would be if Mr Trump decided to believe in "conspiracy theories".
"The only danger is for Australia is if, in spite of the facts, Trump reaches a conclusion Australia was conspiring against him in the 2016 campaign, which is not Australia's fault," he said.
"That would be extremely unfortunate."