ScoMo under pressure over Trump call
A SENIOR US politician has warned the Australian government to be careful about its involvements with the Trump administration, warning it could "cheapen" the longstanding alliance between the two countries.
Joe Courtney, a six-term Democratic congressman from Connecticut, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age he was disturbed by yesterday's revelations that Donald Trump asked Scott Morrison to help gather information for an inquiry to discredit the Mueller investigation.
"The eyes of history are upon you and you don't want to create precedents that future prime ministers and governments feel obligated to follow," Mr Courtney said.
"This story casts a real shadow over what has been a very special relationship.
"It has the potential to cheapen people's perceptions of it and that is very unfortunate."
He said he "feels terrible" that "Australia is being sucked into this vortex", noting that it "cheapens the importance of the relationship at a critical time".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing growing pressure to reveal more details of his phone conversation with US President Donald Trump over an investigation into Russian interference at the US federal election.
Mr Trump initiated a phone call with the Australian PM a few weeks ago explicitly to push him to help his Attorney-General William Barr show that the Mueller investigation had "corrupt and partisan origins", The New York Times first reported.
Mr Morrison confirmed the conversation took place through a government spokesman, saying: "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."
Aside from this statement, Mr Morrison has been silent on the issue, with mounting speculation over whether he will address the scandal in a press conference today.
Mr Morrison is yet to address how he responded to Mr Trump's request - whether there was any quid pro quo exchange - or give any other details of information he may have given the President.
"Donald Trump never should have asked Scott Morrison for this kind of favour, and he's now put the Prime Minister in a very difficult position," Nine political reporter Chris Uhlmann said on Today this morning, adding that we may see the transcript of that phone call soon.
He said he's been told it's "unlikely" the Australian government will hand over any secret documents to the White House.
"There really is no upside for this in Scott Morrison. Whatever he says is going to look evasive because there are some things that he cannot say."
He also said it was possible there was a quid pro quo exchange, questioning whether there would have been a state dinner between the two leaders had Mr Morrison not agreed to Mr Trump's request in the phone call.
Australia's former high commissioner to the UK Alexander Downer played a significant role in sparking the FBI investigation.
He met with George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, who told him about damaging Russian information concerning the President's rival Hillary Clinton prior to the US election.
"I had a conversation with this guy and I passed on one element of the conversation to the Americans. There's just nothing more to it," Mr Downer told the ABC yesterday.
"I know nothing about conversations that Scott Morrison has had with the Americans, including President Trump, about this."
Australia's US ambassador Joe Hockey wrote to Mr Barr in late May offering assistance in the Mueller inquiry review.
"The Australian Government will use its best endeavours to support your efforts in this matter," he wrote. "While Australia's former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, the Hon. Alexander Downer, is no longer employed by the Government, we stand ready to provide you with all the relevant information to support your inquiries."
Mr Trump's chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was also copied in on the letter.
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, Australia's former high commissioner to the United Kingdom, told US officials that Trump campaign foreign policy aide Mr Papadopoulos boasted to him that he had dirt on Mrs 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".
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".
Mr Morrison and Mr Trump met in Washington last month for official meetings and a state dinner, which Mr Barr attended.
In May, Mr Trump told reporters he wanted his Attorney-General to examine all the countries he believed conspired to damage his chances at the 2016 election. He said he hopes Mr Barr "looks at the UK, and I hope he looks at Australia, and I hope he looks at Ukraine. I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country".