Foreign secretary tells MPs the UK government would never collude to discredit intelligence services
No member of the British government, including the prime minister, would ever collude with Donald Trump to try to discredit the work of intelligence agencies uncovering Russian interference in the 2016 US election, the UK foreign secretary said.
Dominic Raab told the Commons that any such collusion is entirely unacceptable, would never happen, and did not happen.
The foreign secretary refused to say at prime ministers questions whether Boris Johnson, or his predecessor, Theresa May, had spoken to the US president about any request to cooperate with the inquiry he had ordered into how the US intelligence agencies handled claims that Russia colluded with the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.
The collusion claim led to the lengthy report by Robert Mueller, which showed that Russia was attempting to swing the presidential election in favour of Trump but did not say whether there had been collusion between Russia and Trump.
Raab was asked whether, as reported in the Times, Trump had personally contacted Johnson to ask him to cooperate with the US inquiry.
The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw implied that the purpose of any Trump request might be to undermine or smear British intelligence services, as well as damage cooperation with their US colleagues.
Raab, deputising for Johnson at prime ministers questions, said: Neither the prime minister or, as then, the foreign secretary, would collude in the way that he described. That is entirely unacceptable and would never happen and did not happen.
It is noticeable that the British government has been less willing than either the Australian or Italian governments to give details of help given to Trumps inquiry into the role of the US intelligence services.
It is not clear if this reluctance stems from a habitual British refusal to discuss the work of the intelligence services, or instead a coolness inside those services at what they may regard as Trump efforts to use intelligence agencies as a weapon of war in his battle with his domestic political opponent.
The UK intelligence service, scarred by the attempted murder in Britain of the double agent Sergei Skripal, does not take the same benign approach to Russia under Vladimir Putin as does Trump.
The US attorney general, William Barr, met UK intelligence agencies in the summer to discuss Britain potentially cooperating with Trumps administration in an inquiry examining the FBIs investigation into alleged collusion with Russia,according to sources.
Barr met British intelligence officials in London on 29 July at a meeting attended by intelligence agencies from the Five Eyes group, made up of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He was accompanied by the US homeland security departments acting deputy secretary, David Pekoske. The meeting was formally about the risks and opportunities of new technologies but Barr also raised his inquiries into the FBI investigation.
It has been reported that Barr is pressing a range of foreign powers to cooperate with his effort to piece together the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaigns links with Russia.
Barrs critics claim he is seeking to discredit the FBI investigation by constructing a vast conspiracy theory suggesting foreign powers were working to secure the presidential election in 2016 for Hillary Clinton.