(Bloomberg) — Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday that he never spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump about the Russia probe, amid questions over his involvement in Trump’s Russiagate scandal.
Conte repeated that Italy’s intelligence services committed no wrongdoing in meetings with U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Conte spoke at a press conference in Rome after testifying before the parliamentary intelligence committee in Rome.
According to a senior Italian official, Barr made a secret visit to Rome to meet with the head of the country’s intelligence agencies. Daily Corriere della Sera reported that the meeting was authorized by Conte. Conte said Wednesday that he never spoke with Barr and that the request for the meetings related to checks on U.S. intelligence agents in Italy.
Italy has been identified as a key link in the U.S. president’s efforts to discredit his enemies in Washington, and Conte has been charged by critics with bending the rules to curry favor with a powerful ally.
After Conte reportedly arranged the August meeting for Barr, he met with Trump at the G-7 Summit in France, at a delicate time for his government, which had been thrown into disarray by a bid from the League’s Matteo Salvini to force new elections.
Trump on Aug. 27 tweeted his support for Conte, calling him “a very talented man who will hopefully remain prime minister!”
Barr returned to Rome a month later with prosecutor John Durham, a meeting reportedly authorized by Conte, with more requests for the intelligence chiefs.
At a request from the U.S., Italian intelligence services have also been investigating the whereabouts of Joseph Mifsud, a one-time Rome-based professor, who allegedly told the Trump presidential campaign that Russia had emails damaging to Hillary Clinton, according to Corriere della Sera.