Three Democratic senators sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to Attorney General William Barr on Friday seeking documents regarding President Trump’s alleged request that Barr hold a press conference saying no laws were broken during a July phone call with Ukraine.
Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Trump’s request raises “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.”
“We submit this FOIA request in order to obtain communications, documents, and other information related to the president’s reported request that you hold a news conference to clear him of wrongdoing during his call with the Ukrainian president,” they added.
The senators asked that Barr respond to their request within five business days.
The request comes in response to a Washington Post report released this week that said Trump asked Barr to hold a press conference affirming that he had broken no laws during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump repeatedly pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a chief political rival, on unfounded corruption allegations.
Barr declined, though the Department of Justice (DOJ) did ultimately release a statement claiming that a readout of the president’s call had been evaluated to not contain any campaign finance violations.
While sources told the Post that Trump has mentioned Barr’s refusal to host a press conference on the issue in recent weeks, White House officials pushed back on the idea that the two were at odds over the issue.
“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 said 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,” he added.
The July conversation with Zelensky is at the heart of the House’s impeachment investigation, with Democrats worrying that Trump tied $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to Kiev’s compliance with his request to investigate Biden.