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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE wanted his attorney general, William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Barr wrote 2018 memo contradicting Trump's claim that abuse of power is not impeachable Brent Budowsky: McConnell, Roberts and Trump on trial 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 BidenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump says impeachment lawyers were 'really good' 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