DOJ says Trump contacted foreign countries to assist Barr's Russia inquiry

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Monday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump's newest Russia adviser, Andrew Peek, leaves post: report Hawley expects McConnell's final impeachment resolution to give White House defense ability to motion to dismiss Trump rips New York City sea wall: 'Costly, foolish' and 'environmentally unfriendly idea' MORE contacted foreign countries at Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Pentagon to place new restrictions, monitoring on foreign military students Parnas: Environment around Trump 'like a cult' MORE’s request to ask them for assistance in an ongoing investigation into the origins of the Russian interference probe.

“As the Department of Justice has previously announced, a team led by U.S. Attorney John DurhamJohn DurhamJim Comey's damaging legacy at the FBI must be undone Federal prosecutor looking into Brennan's role in Russian interference findings: report The Hill's Morning Report - Vulnerable Dems are backing Trump impeachment MORE is investigating the origins of the U.S. counterintelligence probe of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.

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“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,” Kupec added.

The Justice Department statement quickly followed reports that Trump had asked Australia’s prime minister during a recent phone call to assist Barr in gathering information for the Russia inquiry and that Barr had held meetings overseas in Italy seeking the country's help. Barr has also reportedly requested assistance from British intelligence officials in connection with the inquiry.  

Democrats have accused Trump and Barr of pursuing a politically motivated investigation. Trump railed against former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s probe as a “witch hunt” and has at times claimed the investigation into his campaign’s links to Russia was “illegal.”

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Monday that Barr asked Trump to “provide introductions to facilitate” the ongoing investigation, accusing Democrats of not wanting “the truth to come out.”

"This call relates to a DOJ inquiry publicly announced months ago to uncover exactly what happened," Gidley said in a statement Monday. "The DOJ simply requested that the President provide introductions to facilitate that ongoing inquiry, and he did so, that's all." 

Barr said earlier this year that he planned to investigate the intelligence collection on the Trump campaign to determine whether it was “adequately predicated.” Trump has given Barr sweeping powers in the investigation, including allowing the attorney general to declassify and release documents related to the probe.

The review spearheaded by Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, is separate from the Justice Department inspector general’s investigation into the FBI’s surveillance of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, on which a report is currently being prepared.

Mueller concluded his investigation in March; the former special counsel did not find sufficient evidence to accuse members or associates of Trump’s campaign with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

The investigation ensnared six Trump associates on financial, false statements and other charges.

The revelations about Trump's phone conversation with Australia come amid ongoing controversy over a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump encouraged Zelensky to investigate 2016 election interference and unsubstantiated allegations about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden alleges Sanders campaign 'doctored video' to attack him on Social Security record Sanders campaign responds to Biden doctored video claims: Biden should 'stop trying to doctor' public record Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger pens op-ed in defense of Biden: 'I stuttered once, too. I dare you to mock me' MORE, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. 

A rough transcript of the call released by the White House showed that Trump offered to put Zelensky in touch with Barr and Trump's personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiDemocrats file brief against Trump, 'the Framers' worst nightmare' Trump lawyers attack House impeachment as 'brazen and unlawful' effort to overturn 2016 results Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial MORE.

The DOJ said last week that Barr did not learn of the call until several weeks after it took place and that the attorney general had not communicated with the Ukrainian government. The Justice Department also acknowledged that "certain Ukrainians" not part of the country's government had volunteered information to Durham and that he was reviewing it. 

The Zelensky call, which triggered an intelligence community whistleblower complaint, is at the heart of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into Trump announced last week by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiREAD: House impeachment managers' trial brief Desperate Democrats badmouth economy even as it booms Pelosi offers message to Trump on Bill Maher show: 'You are impeached forever' MORE (D-Calif.). 

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong on the call, and his aides have dismissed allegations raised by the whistleblower that Trump was using his office to pressure a foreign government to help his reelection. 

Updated at 8:02 p.m. Justine Coleman contributed.