Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under pressure to release the transcript of a conversation about his offer to help U.S. President Donald Trump in investigating the origins of the Mueller probe into election interference.
Scott Morrison’s office on Tuesday confirmed the prime minister had agreed during a phone call with the U.S. president in September to assist the United States Justice Department and Attorney-General William Barr as he has been running a counter-investigation into the Mueller report, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
The Mueller probe found there was no evidence Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election, but was unable to exonerate him from obstruction of justice.
Responding to the revelation, the Opposition Australian Labor Party’s leader Anthony Albanese called on Morrison to reveal what commitments he made.
“The prime minister needs to explain what exactly went on here. He needs to release any transcript or information which is out there,” he told reporters, according to ABC on Wednesday.
“The prime minister needs to make a full statement and not say ‘this is just gossip’, (and) not give one of his usual prevarications,” he said.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has defended the prime minister’s actions, denying the claim that Australia is being dragged into a U.S. domestic political dispute.
“I don’t see it as Australia being dragged into a U.S. political issue. The inquiry, very much like the others which have been ongoing in the United States, is a matter for them,” she said.
“We’re conducting ourselves as you would expect us to do in these circumstances – we are working in Australia’s interests,” she added.
Prior to the Mueller probe, the FBI had looked into Trump’s links with Russia.
According to ABC, that investigation was prompted after Alexander Downer, Australian former high commissioner to the Britain, alerted authorities to report that Russians might use damaging material they had on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The recent story was reported only days after Morrison returned from an eight-day official visit to the United States, during which he became the first Australian prime minister to be hosted for an official state dinner by a president since 2006.
Bill Shorten, who preceded Albanese as the leader of the Australian Labor Party, demanded Morrison release the full transcript of his conversation with Trump.
“Prime Minister Morrison got a very warm, indeed special reception from President Trump. Mr. Morrison needs to clean up the perception that perhaps the special reception was returned for special favours done,” he said.
“The Australian people value and cherish the U.S. alliance, but no Australian wants to see our prime minister having the perception of being a lapdog to a particular U.S. president or U.S. domestic political agenda,” he added.
(Xinhua News Agency)