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White House

The Australia Story Isn’t a Story

President Donald Trump walks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the White House, September 20, 2019. (Shealah Craighead/White House)

The Australia story is not a story. Per the Times:

President Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Attorney General William P. Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Mr. Trump hopes will discredit the Mueller investigation, according to two American officials with knowledge of the call.

And this is bad because?

And like the call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, the discussion with Mr. Morrison shows the president using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests.

Does it? Because it seems pretty unreasonable to me to (a) invest the power of investigation in the executive branch, (b) demand the executive branch conduct an investigation, and then (c) claim that if that investigation ever intersects with the personal political interests of the head of that executive branch, it’s ipso facto illegitimate. What is our standard here? “You must investigate this topic, but don’t ask any questions that might redound to your benefit”? Come now.

There’s no suggestion of a quid pro quo here. And there is nothing odd about Trump’s asking these questions of Australia given that Australia contributed information into the Five Eyes system that, eventually, informed the Mueller investigation and had serious effects on American politics.

Perhaps the problem is that it would be illegal and untoward for President Trump to ask world leaders to cooperate with Attorney General Barr, and/or that it’s not within Barr’s powers to speak with foreign law enforcement officials about what his prosecutor needs from them?

Is that it? Here’s the Times again:

Justice Department officials have said that it would be neither illegal nor untoward for Mr. Trump to ask world leaders to cooperate with Mr. Barr. And it is within Mr. Barr’s powers to speak with foreign law enforcement officials about what his prosecutor needs from them.

Ah.

As I said on The Editors podcast last week, I think that the Ukraine call was “pretty bad.” This? This is a non-story.

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