2019-11-14 17:40:141 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
In his first stint as attorney general, William Barr was much respected. But since he came back to retake the position and become part of the Trump administration, he just can’t seem to stay out of harm’s way, similar to many other people in the administration. It’s clear what the common denominator is.
His most recent trouble stems from a recent story stating that Donald Trump asked him to hold a news conference and declare that he broke no laws in his phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. On Wednesday he didn’t deny that it happened, just denied any memory of the request. He did cop to discussions with the White House regarding how the Justice Department would communicate with the media regarding the Trump-Zelensky phone call.
At a Memphis event focused on the DOJ cracking down on gun violence, a reporter asked Barr, “Mr. Attorney General, did the president ask you to publicly defend him regarding the Ukrainian call, and if so, why did you not want to do that?”
“If you’re talking about press reports that he asked me to have a news conference, that fact is, I don’t remember any such request,” the attorney general replied. “In fact, my recollection is that I told the White House that we would do what we would normally do, and that is issue a press statement, which we did, and that was not an issue. There was no pushback on that.”
This is the first time Barr has spoken about the issue since The Washington Post first reported that Trump asked Barr to hold a press conference that declared he hadn’t broken any laws with his Zelensky call when he asked the other president to investigate his political opponents.
According to the original story, Barr declined Trump’s request. It had been suggested originally to other White House officials and later made its way to the DOJ, according to people who are familiar with the matter.
Whether or not he was asked to, Barr did not hold a news conference; however, a DOJ spokeswoman issued a statement when the call transcript was released that said officials had reviewed it and determined the president had not broken any campaign finance laws.
“Bill Barr did not decline my request to talk about Ukraine,” Trump tweeted the day after the news story broke. “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.”
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said at the time that the newspaper “fully stands behind its story.”
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