WASHINGTON — President Trump unleashed a barrage of rage-tweets reacting to a report that his Attorney General William Barr refused to step in front of the cameras and publicly clear him of any crimes in the Ukraine scandal.
Such a decision by Barr appears to mark another cautious step away from the White House in the unfolding Ukraine saga, which sparked the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
The report Wednesday night in The Washington Post puts a new wrinkle in the famously chummy Trump-Barr relationship. Barr has become known for defending Trump with single-minded zeal since joining the administration earlier this year, prompting legal experts to liken him to a defense attorney for Trump rather than the nation’s top law enforcement official.
Barr’s stance during the Ukraine affair, however, in which Trump’s administration stands accused of pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation of his Democratic enemies, has become noticeably more aloof.
Naturally, the Post article enraged Trump, who furiously tweeted out denials late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
Trump slammed the “degenerate” Washington Post and called the story “FAKE NEWS.”
Despite Trump’s tweetstorm of denial, a DOJ spokesperson didn’t return a request for comment on the incident from VICE News on Thursday morning.
Barr’s DOJ did release a statement saying it had reviewed Trump’s now-infamous July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine and found there was no cause for further investigating whether campaign finance laws might have been broken.
It’s against the law for Americans to solicit or receive valuable foreign assistance with a U.S. political campaign. But Trump’s request on that phone call for Ukraine to “look into” former Vice President and 2020 Democratic hopeful Joe Biden, apparently, didn’t warrant any further inquiry, the DOJ said.
But the Post suggested Barr had reached his limit with that written statement: A request by Trump in late September for Barr to step in front of the cameras and fully clear Trump was denied, the story said.
Barr was reportedly angered to have been cited by name during the July 25 phone call, when Trump told Ukrainian President Zelensky to follow up about investigations with both Barr and Trump’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani.
The DOJ attempted to distance itself from Trump’s White House in mid-October, after Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney appeared to confirm a quid pro quo arrangement with Ukraine in the form of swapping vital military assistance for politically-helpful investigations on national television. (Mulvaney later denied saying anything of the sort, despite having been pretty clear about it on television moments earlier.)
“If the White House was withholding aid in regards to the cooperation of any investigation at the Department of Justice, that is news to us,” a DOJ told VICE News at the time.
Cover: President Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr announce the Trump administration's effort to gain citizenship data during the 2020 census at an event in the Rose Garden of the White House on July 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA)(Sipa via AP Images)