The Slatest

Trump Is Now Enlisting Foreign Leaders to Discredit Russian Election Meddling on His Behalf

President Trump arms crossed and smirking at his desk in the Oval Office during a phone conversation.
Donald Trump has a plan to stay president.
MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

It’s now abundantly clear that President Trump is actively deploying the resources of the U.S. government explicitly to bolster his chances of reelection in 2020. The recent whistleblower complaint revealed one part of the two-pronged strategy: leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine to compel the Ukrainian government to dredge up old allegations on political rival Joe Biden. The second aspect of the Trump vindication-through-vilification reelection strategy has led Trump and his allies to investigate the investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election to try to muddy the water sufficiently that Trump looks clean by comparison—or by confusion. That effort is also being propelled by the power vested in the highest offices of the U.S. government, including, of course, the presidency. Yet another example, the New York Times reports, is a recent phone call made by President Trump to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking the foreign leader to assist Attorney General Bill Barr in the investigation of the Mueller investigation.

“The discussion with [Australia’s prime minister] shows the extent to which Trump views the attorney general as a crucial partner,” the Times notes. “[T]he president is using federal law enforcement powers to aid his political prospects, settle scores with his perceived ‘deep state’ enemies and show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt, partisan origins.” If there was any inkling that this was an investigation being done in good faith of the origins of the Mueller investigation, the fact that the White House has reportedly buried the transcript of the call under layers of frivolous national security classification similar to its efforts to hide the Ukraine call indicates the Trump inner circle knows what they’re doing here is outside the law, certainly the spirit of it, and certainly doesn’t look good.

The United States attorney general has also been enlisted in this effort. Barr recently traveled to Italy, along with federal prosecutor John Durham who is overseeing the investigation of the investigation, to solicit help from Italian intelligence officials. “Barr has already made overtures to British intelligence officials, and last week the attorney general traveled to Italy, where he and Durham met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham,” a person familiar with the matter told the Washington Post. “It was not Barr’s first trip to Italy to meet intelligence officials, the person said.”