From The Guardian:
An effort in recent months by Donald Trump to rewrite the history of the 2016 US presidential election and set up a 2020 re-election victory was more geographically sprawling and reliant on the day-to-day participation of top cabinet members than previously reported, it emerged on Monday.
William Barr, the attorney general, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, collectively participated in contacts between Trump and leaders of at least four foreign countries, according to multiple reports.
Those contacts were variously aimed at producing stories that could damage Joe Biden, Trump’s potential 2020 opponent, or at producing stories that could undermine the US intelligence community’s assessment from 2017 of Russian election tampering in the last election, the reports said.
Barr was previously reported to be “surprised and angry” to find his name mentioned in a summary of a call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, while Pompeo, when asked what he knew about that phone call, replied that he had not seen a copy of the whistleblower document that flagged it: “I haven’t seen the complaint,” he told ABC News.
In fact, Pompeo reportedly took part in the call, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing a senior state department official. For his part, Barr flew to Italy and to London to ask for help in “investigating” the roots of the Russia investigation, the Washington Post reported. Trump also asked the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison for help, and Morrison agreed to assist, something confirmed by the Australian government.
“Pretty clear that Barr is working feverishly [with] Trump to produce some kind of anti-Mueller report,” tweeted the MSNBC host Chris Hayes.
The justice department defied that characterization, issuing a statement on Monday that described Barr’s work as business-as-usual to support the US attorney John Durham’s investigation of the FBI’s former inquiry into Russian election tampering.
But it was very unusual for the attorney general, much less the president, to be personally involved at such lengths in an internal investigation, even where foreign contacts are required, former federal prosecutors said.
When a summary appeared last week of the July phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, the scope of involvement by the Trump administration appeared at first to be limited. Trump had mostly used his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pursue his project, it seemed.
But that picture has quickly changed. The release of a whistleblower report Thursday suggested an active role by Barr, and said that a dozen US officials had listened to the Trump-Ukraine phone call, and that summaries of the call had been distributed more widely – raising the question of what proportion of Trump administration energies in recent months have been devoted to Trump’s pet projects.