Trump Fumes Over Report That Barr Spurned Him on Ukraine

Attorney General Barr William Barr on Oct. 3, 2019, at the SEC in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump took to Twitter Thursday to vehemently deny that he ever instructed Attorney General William Barr to hold a press conference where he would say Trump did not break the law in the July phone call with Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelensky, now at the heart of an impeachment inquiry.

The Washington Post had cited “people familiar with the matter” when it broke news of the alleged request Wednesday night. The request came about indirectly, according to the article, which also suggested Trump first spoke with White House officials about the press conference idea before news of the message eventually made its way to the Justice Department.

Ultimately Barr declined to hold the press conference, the Post reported.

Trump disputed the story in a flurry of tweets Thursday morning.

“The degenerate Washington Post MADE UP the story about me asking Bill Barr to hold a news conference. Never happened and there were no sources!” Trump tweeted in a rapid-fire series of missives slamming the impeachment inquiry as well as the whistleblower who spurred the inquiry earlier his fall.

Trump also denied that Barr declined the request to talk about Ukraine.

“The story was a Fake Washington Post con job with an ‘anonymous’ source that doesn’t exist,” Trump wrote. “Just read the Transcript. The Justice Department already ruled that the call was good. We don’t have freedom of the press!” 

To date, the White House has released only a summary of the Trump-Zelensky call, a transcript of which has been kept under lock and key, according to witness testimony in the impeachment probe.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to request for comment Thursday morning. When the White House first released its summary of the July 25 call, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec issued a statement saying Barr had not discussed Ukraine investigating anything relating to former Vice President Joe Biden or his son.

“The president has not asked the attorney general to contact Ukraine – on this or any other matter,” Kupec said in September. “The attorney general has not communicated with Ukraine – on this or any other subject.”

A press conference where announcements are made on critical investigations involving the Trump administration would be within the attorney general’s wheelhouse. Barr held a news conference just ahead of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference of the 2016 election and the instances of obstruction by President Trump that Mueller’s investigation uncovered.

Barr faced backlash when his announcement that the investigation found “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russian actors did not correspond to Mueller’s actual findings.

Thursday’s tweets from the president felt a bit like déjà vu. Instead of the president urging people to read the attorney general’s summary of the Mueller report, however, this time the president pleaded for a reading of an incomplete version of the call transcript between himself and Zelensky.

“Read the Transcript!” Trump urged before continuing with another jab at congressional lawmakers conducting the impeachment inquiry.

“Based on the information released last night about the Fake Whistleblowers attorney, the Impeachment Hoax should be ended IMMEDIATELY! There is no case, except against the other side!” Trump tweeted.

When reached for comment Thursday, the whistleblower’s attorney, Mark Zaid responded succinctly.

“The whistleblower was interviewed by the ICIG, a Trump appointee, and found to be credible, as well as the complaint allegations to be urgent,” Zaid said. “The emperor has no clothes and more people are realizing that every day.”

The president targeted the reporters of the Washington Post story as well. 

“The Amazon Washington Post and three lowlife reporters, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, and Carol Leonnig, 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!” Trump tweeted. 

Also lashing out at lawmakers conducting the impeachment inquiry, Trump asserted that he is not being given due process as the process unfolds. 

A resolution that passed in the House on Halloween specifically outlined the rights available to the president once the hearings are underway publicly and the process moves from the House Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee. 

One in the House Judiciary Committee, the president will have the right to present evidence, cross-examine witnesses and present a formal defense.  

As the president blasts the inquiry on Twitter, on Capitol Hill, lawmakers will hear deposition from Vice President Mike Pence’s top aide on Europe and Russia, Jennifer Williams.

Williams was on the call between Trump and Zelensky, and investigators believe she may be able to reveal more about the Trump administration’s engagement with Ukraine in the run up to a freeze on military aid.

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