Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and two other Democratic senators have sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Attorney General William Barr for documents regarding reports that the president had asked Barr to hold a press conference saying that no laws were broken on the July 25 call.
The letter, signed by Harris, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), states that the reports raise “serious concerns about the president’s perception of the Justice Department as a partisan political instrument and his willingness to use the power of federal law enforcement in pursuit of his own objectives.”
The senators are asking Barr to obtain communications, documents, and other information related to President Donald Trump’s alleged request for a press conference to clear him of wrongdoing during his call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Barr has five business days from Nov. 8 to respond to their request.
The senators’ request comes after a The Washington Post report, citing anonymous sources, that claimed Trump had asked Barr to hold a news conference to exonerate the president from wrongdoing for his call with Zelensky. The July 25 call is at the center of an impeachment inquiry launched by the House Democrats to investigate allegations that Trump had leverage on his office to pressure Ukraine to obtain information about a political opponent—2020 Democratic Candidate Joe Biden.
According to the report, Barr declined the request.
A day after the impeachment inquiry was launched, the Justice Department determined that Trump did not violate campaign finance law when he asked Zelensky to investigate allegations of corruption by former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
In response to the story, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement: “The President has nothing but respect for AG Barr and greatly appreciates the work he’s done on behalf of the country—and no amount of shady sources with clear intent to divide, smear, and slander will change that.”
Trump also pushed back on the claims made in the Post’s article, accusing the newspaper of peddling a fake story.
“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,” Trump said in a Twitter post on Nov. 7. “Just read the Transcript. The Justice Department already ruled that the call was good. We don’t have freedom of the press!”
“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!” he said in a separate post.
The Nov. 8 request is the second request in weeks by the three senators to obtain information about Trump and Ukraine. On Oct. 23, they sent Barr an FOIA request “seeking information about the White House’s attempts to interfere with federal law enforcement to pursue politically beneficial outcomes.”