2020-11-17 22:33:33 UTC
Trump wanted Bill Barr to publicly declare Trump broke no laws in Ukraine
WASHINGTON President Donald Trump wanted Attorney General William Barr
to say publicly that Trump broke no laws in his dealings with Ukraine,
aides said Thursday, though Barr has never taken such a step during the
ongoing impeachment investigation.
Instead, the Justice Department issued a statement in late September that
"there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was
warranted" related to Trump's phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr
Trump had sought the kind of news conference that Barr conducted after the
release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian involvement
in the 2016 presidential election. But officials said he is satisfied with
the way the Justice Department has handled the matter.
"The DOJ did in fact release a statement about the call and the claim that
it resulted in tension because it wasnt a news conference is completely
false," one administration official said, speaking on condition of
anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
In that statement, the department said that prosecutors had reviewed the
summary of the July 25 Zelensky call and determined that no criminal
investigation was warranted into possible violations of campaign finance
law. The matter had been referred to the Justice Department by the U.S.
Intelligence Community inspector general based on a whistleblower's
Democrat lawmakers, however, have since criticized the department's review
as superficial, noting that it was based entirely on the written summary
of the call, which even the White House indicated was incomplete.
Authorities conducted no interviews to learn why a whistleblower took the
extraordinary step of taking his concern to the inspector general for the
nation's intelligence agencies.
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The Washington Post, which first disclosed the the president's desire for
the attorney general to support him, reported that Trump wanted Barr "to
hold a news conference declaring that the commander in chief had broken no
laws during a phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to
investigate a political rival, though Barr ultimately declined to do so."
Trump disputed aspects of the story in a morning tweet, saying Barr "did
not decline my request to talk about Ukraine" and noting that "the Justice
Department already ruled that the call was good."
The Democrat-controlled U.S. House is conducting an impeachment
investigation of Trump's request that Ukraine investigate U.S. political
opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his
son Hunter Biden, who had business dealings in Ukraine.
The impeachment investigation also centers on evidence Trump withheld
military aide from Ukraine and a White House meeting unless it complied
with his request to launch investigations.
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Democrats seek his testimony on Ukraine
Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House
Intelligence Committee, said Trump tried to get a foreign government
involved in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
Trump maintains he did nothing wrong, and that Democrats and the media are
engaged in a "deranged, delusional, destructive, and hyper-partisan
impeachment witch hunt."
Democrats have also accused Barr of trying to shield Trump from
accountability. They criticized the attorney general for his April news
conference after the release of the Mueller report, in which Barr asserted
there was no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the
Offering a strong defense of Trump, Barr also asserted that the
presidents conduct during the Mueller investigation, including threats to
fire the special counsel, did not rise to the level of obstruction of
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In the Ukraine matter, Barr was angered after first learning that Trump
had invoked his name in the phone call with Zelensky, offering the
attorney generals assistance in pursuing investigations into Biden and
his son. Barr has said he is not involved in any of that.
"The attorney general has not communicated with Ukraine on this or any
other subject," the department said in a statement at the time the call
summary was released in September.
While Trump wanted another news conference on Ukraine, officials said the
president and his attorney general still get along well.
The President has nothing but respect for Attorney General Barr and
greatly appreciates the work hes done on behalf of the country," White
House spokesman Hogan Gidley said. "And no amount of shady sources with
clear intent to divide, smear, and slander will change that.
This wouldn't be the first time Trump has asked a law enforcement official
to clear him.
In 2017, the president asked then-FBI Director James Comey to announce
that Trump was not a target of the Russia investigation. Comey's refusal
to do so was one of the factors behind Trump's decision to fire him,
another firestorm in his tumultuous presidency.