Australia pledges to cooperate in Russia investigation, disputes role of diplomat

Australia pledges to cooperate in Russia investigation, disputes role of diplomat
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The Australian ambassador to the U.S. on Thursday said the country will cooperate with the Justice Department in its inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation but dismissed a claim that an Australian official was involved.

Australian Ambassador to the U.S. Joe Hockey said in a letter replying to Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters Senate Democrats' campaign arm announces seven-figure investment to boost Graham challenger Graham: Comey to testify about FBI's Russia probe, Mueller declined invitation MORE (R-S.C.) that the nation has been "public about our willingness to cooperate."

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"I can assure you that the Australian Government is cooperating with Attorney General Barr's inquiry," the letter said. 

Hockey dismissed Graham's previous claim in a letter that an Australian diplomat was involved in the Russia probe.

"In your letter you made mention of the role of an Australian diplomat," Hockey's letter said. "We reject your characterisation of his role."

Hockey also attached a letter sent to Attorney General William Barr on May 28 expressing Australia's willingness to cooperate. 

"The Australian Government will use its best endeavours to support your efforts in this matter," the letter said.

Graham, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom on Wednesday requesting the countries' assistance in providing any information to the Justice Department that may have helped lead to former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's investigation.

Australian officials told the FBI about the Trump campaign's communication with Russia regarding information about 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers The Hill's Campaign Report: Arizona shifts towards Biden | Biden prepares for drive-in town hall | New Biden ad targets Latino voters FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden MORE, which sparked the FBI investigation into the Trump-Russia relationship.

The New York Times reported Monday that the president had asked the Australian prime minister to provide information about the Russia investigation's origins.

Graham defended Barr in his letter, saying his contact with foreign officials for the Justice Department inquiry was "well within the bounds of his normal activities."