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 John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS 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 DurhamTrump denies knowledge of Barr meeting in Italy, says it would be appropriate Cornyn makes waves with tweet about Justice investigating Biden GOP turns furor on media amid impeachment fight 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) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network 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 BidenTrump knocks Romney as 'Democrat secret asset' in new video Giuliani asked State Dept. to grant visa for ex-Ukraine official at center of Biden allegations: report Perry won't comply with subpoena in impeachment inquiry 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.