Speed Reads

Department of Trump

Attorney General Barr reportedly travels abroad to assist in another iffy Trump-instigated investigation

Attorney General William Barr appears really invested in President Trump's efforts to discredit U.S. intelligence agencies and their conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump win.

On Monday, Australia and the Justice Department confirmed that Trump personally asked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to assist a Justice Department counter-investigation into the origins of the FBI's 2016 Russia probe, purportedly at Barr's request, and The Washington Post reported that Barr has traveled overseas several times to meet with foreign intelligence officials and ask for their help with that investigation.

Barr's latest quiet trip abroad was to Italy last week, right after House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry over Trump's soliciting Ukraine's president for an apparently baseless investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, his potential 2020 Democratic rival. The whistleblower who flagged that call said it appears Barr is involved in the Ukraine effort, too, and Trump implicated Barr in his phone call, but Barr denied any part in the Biden plot. On Monday's New York Times podcast The Daily, Julian Barnes explained how Barr's Justice Department buried the whistleblower's complaint once and narrowly failed to a second time.

The investigation Barr met with Italian officials about on Friday appears separate from the Ukraine muckracking. For one, Barr announced it publicly in May, putting U.S. Attorney John Durham in charge. Durham was in Italy with Barr and also reportedly met with senior Italian intelligence officials. Barr similarly flew to London over the summer to seek assistance from British intelligence officials, the Post reports. Such trips are not normal, ABC News notes. In fact, "it's not clear whether there's any other example of the country's lead law enforcement official traveling overseas to personally investigate an issue that the president believes could benefit him politically."

"Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm Monday that the head of the Justice Department was taking such a direct role in reexamining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct," the Post reports. On MSNBC, former FBI agent Clint Watt also explained why Barr "running around the world coordinating intelligence activities" must be confusing to America's allies and U.S. officials serving abroad. Watch below. Peter Weber