Trump's Russia conversation 'within expectations'

Foreign minister Julie Bishop speaking at the opening of the Kimberley Process in Perth on Monday May 1, 2017.??  Photo: Supplied
Foreign minister Julie Bishop speaking at the opening of the Kimberley Process in Perth on Monday May 1, 2017.?? Photo: Supplied

President Donald Trump's now-famous White House conversation with Russian officials was within the norms of an international leader's meeting, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Friday, as she defended the under-siege US administration.

Speaking outside the United Nations headquarters in New York, Ms Bishop said Australia had a "very high level of confidence" in its strategic alliance with the US after President Trump revealed sensitive information, sourced from an intelligence-sharing ally, to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

"Australia is a significant intelligence partner of the United States and we have a very close working relationship with them, and the conversations that the President has had are, to our understanding, within the type of conversations that one would expect leaders to hold," Ms Bishop said.

"I believe that the US administration is governing appropriately for the people of this country. Our interest, of course, lies in ensuring that the United States remains a strong and powerful nation."

Mr Trump defended his actions as his "absolute right" but has come under attack from figures across the political spectrum, with senior Republican congressman John McCain calling the reports "deeply disturbing" and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin accusing the President of being "dangerous" and "reckless".

The US and Australia are members of the high-level "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing network, which also includes Britain, Canada and New Zealand. The intelligence Mr Trump disclosed to the Russians reportedly came from the Israeli government.

As the US continues to grapple with the ramifications of suspected Russian interference in last year's election - and allegations of inappropriate collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign - Ms Bishop met with American Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and other administration officials.

She also spoke with Henry Kissinger, former president Richard Nixon's secretary of state and a confidant to President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Thursday, Mr Trump described himself as the victim of a "witch hunt" after the Department of Justice appointed a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian figures in the lead up to his November defeat of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Former US national security adviser Michael Flynn and other advisers to Mr Trump's campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the presidential race, current and former US officials familiar with the exchanges have told Reuters.

Ms Bishop is in New York to push Australia's case for a coveted seat on the UN's Human Rights Council.

She rejected any suggestion that Australia's strict and well-known asylum seeker policy was having a "negative" effect on the campaign.

"It has been raised in the context of what Australia is doing to protect its borders and stem the flow of people smuggling, human trafficking. It is raised in that context. But certainly not in the context for our bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council."

The Foreign Minister said "Australia is seen as a principled and pragmatic advocate for human rights".

Ms Bishop also defended her criticisms of the former Rudd government's campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council, accusing the former prime minister of using foreign aid money to buy votes.

"I wasn't critical of the principle of seeking to play our role at the United Nations. I was critical of the way he went about it," she said.

"And the use of our aid budget to buy votes was not a practice that I supported nor do I support it now."

This story Trump's Russia conversation 'within expectations' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.