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Barr sought help from foreign intelligence officials for inquiry of Mueller probe's origins

Attorney General William Barr has requested assistance from foreign intelligence officials as part of a Department of Justice (DOJ) inquiry into U.S. intelligence agencies' probes of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the DOJ confirmed on Monday.

In private meetings, Barr personally sought help from these officials for an inquiry President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal GOP believes Democrats handing them winning 2022 campaign Former GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns MORE wanted to discredit the U.S. intelligence community's handling of the Russian probe, The Washington Post reported.

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The Justice Department confirmed Barr's outreach, saying in a statement that U.S. Attorney John DurhamJohn DurhamGarland stresses independence in first speech at DOJ Senate votes to confirm Garland as attorney general Special counsel investigating Russia probe to retire as US attorney MORE, who is leading the DOJ’s inquiry, is "gathering information from numerous sources including a number of foreign countries."

"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," DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. The Justice Department sought to emphasize that the outreach is unrelated to Russian meddling itself.

Barr and Durham reportedly met with senior Italian government officials, the Post reported. Sources told the paper that they asked for assistance in the inquiry and that this was not Barr's first in-person meeting with Italian intelligence officials. 

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the department asked the president to make connections between it and foreign officers to move forward with the inquiry and that "he did so, that's all."

"I’m old enough to remember when Democrats actually wanted to find out what happened in the 2016 election," Gidley said in a statement. "The Democrats clearly don't want the truth to come out anymore as it might hurt them politically, but this call relates to a DOJ inquiry publicly announced months ago to uncover exactly what happened."

Following the release of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's report earlier this summer, the White House has sought to pivot to investigating the origins of that probe, with Trump making unsubstantiated allegations that the Obama administration spied on his campaign.

Trump's supporters have long called for an investigation into the beginnings of the U.S. intelligence community's investigation into Russian interference. The president and his administration have continued to speak out against those who investigated his connections with Russia, saying they should be charged.

The Post report came hours after another news story that Barr also asked the president to request that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison look into the origins of the Mueller investigation.

The reports come amid the ongoing fallout over the president's controversial call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked him to “look into” former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal Obama, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley team up to urge communities of color to get coronavirus vaccine Biden to hold second meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure MORE, a 2020 White House candidate, as well as Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials were concerned about Barr's direct involvement in the allegations against the intelligence community, the Post reported.

David Laufman, a former Justice Department official initially involved with the Russia investigation, told the Post it was "fairly unorthodox for the attorney general personally to be flying around the world as a point person to further evidence-gathering for a specific Justice Department investigation."

Updated at 6:31 p.m.