Trump wanted Barr to say publicly that the Ukraine phone call was not illegal: report

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration proposes denying work permits to asylum-seekers who illegally cross border Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris lead Trump in Georgia: Poll Trump officials making changes to signature drug pricing proposal, Azar says MORE wanted his attorney general, William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrHouse Democrats circulate memo rebutting GOP impeachment defense Barr to launch anti-gun violence initiative during public impeachment hearing Losing their religion: AG Barr should recognize the faith of progressives MORE, to state publicly that he had broken no laws with his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump requested Barr make the announcement at a formal press conference.

Barr declined, though the Department of Justice (DOJ) did eventually release a statement claiming that a readout of the president's call — during which Trump pushed Zelensky to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenButtigieg releases ad in Iowa highlighting health care plan Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris lead Trump in Georgia: Poll Lindsey Graham vows to not watch 'un-American' Trump impeachment hearings MORE — had been evaluated to not contain any campaign finance violations.

Democrats have argued that Trump's effort to persuade Zelensky constituted an attempt to solicit foreign assistance in a U.S. election.

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Sources in the administration told the Post that the president has mentioned Barr's refusal to host a press conference on the issue in recent weeks, but a senior administration official denied that Barr's decision had resulted in any friction between the two men. White House officials pushed back on the idea that the two were at odds over the issue in emails with The Hill.

“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," White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley added Thursday.

"The DOJ did in fact release a statement about the call, and the claim that it resulted in tension because it wasn’t a news conference is completely false," the official said.

The White House did not immediately answer a request for further comment from The Hill.

One source familiar with the president's relationship with his attorney general characterized the distance between Barr and Trump as "healthy," according to the Post.

“My take is that Barr hasn’t changed one bit, that he has had a healthy distance from the beginning,” the source told the newspaper. “He knows the parameters of the relationship between a president and an AG.”

Updated at 1:15 p.m. 11/7/19