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By Laura Tucker, Staff writer: Image: Donald Trump and William Barr (Image source: Public domain)
At some point you would think Donald Trump would learn from his mistakes, but he just doesn't.
So much time has been spent this year on the possible obstruction of justice when he allegedly told former White House counsel Don McGahn to dismiss then-special counsel Robert Mueller. McGahn refused, and when that was leaked to the press, Trump told him to lie to the press and say it didn't happen. Again, he refused.
And now Trump is doing it again, or at least something very similar. In recent weeks with the impeachment inquiry building, he wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference that cleared him of anything illegal with regard to his phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The published transcript of the call shows him asking his Ukrainian counterpart to conduct investigations of Democrats formerly and presently up against Trump in elections. These include whether Ukraine was working alongside former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 and also former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter who has done work for a Ukrainian energy company.
A person familiar with Trump's request of Barr told CNN that the president mentioned the idea of having Barr have a press conference in conversations about the impeachment inquiry over the past few weeks. He thought it could help him with the message that he didn't do anything wrong.
The source was not sure if this idea was a formal discussion or whether Barr had refused to do it. But the Washington Post is claiming that Barr did refuse.
The Post claims Trump made the request at some point around the time the transcript of the call was released. It was told to White House officials and then relayed to the Justice Department. He reportedly mentioned Barr's refusal to aides and that he wished Barr would hold a press conference.
While they didn't give Trump the press conference, the DOJ did give him just about everything else he was asking for when the transcript was released.
They publicly announced that prosecutors with the criminal division found no wrongdoing with respect to campaign finance law and released a memo regarding the reason the intelligence community's inspector general wasn't required to submit the whistleblower complaint to Congress.
People close to the attorney general say that while he backs presidential power, he has acknowledged that he may have to assert the DOJ's self-government.
"My take is that Barr hasn't changed one bit, that he has had a healthy distance from the beginning," said a person close to the administration. "He knows the parameters of the relationship between a president and an AG."
Despite that, the transcript of the call shows that Trump told Zelensky that he should work with Barr on the investigations.
"I would like to have the attorney general call you or your people, and I would like you to get to the bottom of it."
However, despite what Trump said to Zelensky, that does not mean that Barr had already offered his help or that he was willing to go along with it. But it does show that Trump has been trying to involve him from at least the time of the call on July 25.
Around midnight, just after the story about him asking Barr to hold a press conference was out, Trump tweeted, "Bill Barr did not decline my request to talk about Ukraine. The story was a fake Washington Post con job with an 'anonymous' source that doesn't exist. Just read the transcript. The Justice Department already ruled that the call was good. We don't have freedom of the press!"
Throughout the morning he posted about it a few more times, then tweeted, "The Amazon Washington Post and three lowlife reporters, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, and Carol Leoning, wrote another fake news story without any sources (pure fiction) about Bill Barr & myself. We both deny this story, which they knew before they wrote it. A garbage newspaper!"
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