US President Donald Trump called Australian Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison and asked for his help with an investigation into the origins of the Mueller inquiry, Australian officials have confirmed.
Mr Trump asked Mr Morrison to help find evidence to discredit the inquiry, US and Australian media reported.
Australia confirmed the call had taken place and that the PM agreed to help.
The revelation comes as Mr Trump faces impeachment proceedings at home over a call with another foreign leader.
The president is accused of pressuring the leader of Ukraine to investigate domestic political rival Joe Biden, in a phone call which was exposed by a whistleblower last week.
The call spurred Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings, and on Monday the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani was served with a subpoena.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has reported that US Attorney-General William Barr held private meetings with Italian and British intelligence officials to ask for assistance in the investigation of the Mueller inquiry.
A source told the paper Mr Barr visited Italy last week, and not for the first time.
The transcript of the call between Mr Morrison and Mr Trump was restricted within the White House to a small number of the president’s aides, reports said – contrary to normal protocol.
The same restrictions were reportedly placed on the Ukraine call, raising concerns that White House staff were attempting to conceal records of the president’s conversations with certain foreign leaders.
The president has been under increased scrutiny over his interactions with foreign leaders since impeachment proceedings began.
The Mueller inquiry investigated whether Mr Trump colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election. Its findings, released in April, did not establish that the Trump campaign criminally conspired with Russia to influence the election.
But the findings did not exonerate the president of collusion, and the Mueller report outlined an extensive obstruction-of-justice case against the president.
The inquiry infuriated Mr Trump and he relentlessly criticised it as a “witch hunt”. In May he announced that Mr Barr would look into how the inquiry originated.
Questions have also been raised about Mr Barr’s personal involvement in the investigation and the fact that he has in turn closely involved Mr Trump – it was he who asked the president to facilitate contact with foreign officials. -BBC