U.S. President Donald Trump is forcefully denying he urged Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference clearing him of any illegal acts in a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The Washington Post and several other media organizations report Trump made the request, which Barr declined, around the time the White House released a rough transcript of the call, which the president has repeatedly described as "perfect."
In a series of tweets, Trump said the request to Barr "never happened, and there were no sources," attacking the Post as degenerate and labeling those who wrote the story as "lowlife reporters."
The newspaper issued a statement Thursday, saying it stands by its story, which Trump calls fake news, saying it relies on sources who do not exist.
"The president continues to make false accusations against news organizations and individual journalists," says Post Executive Editor Marty Baron. "Despite his repugnant attempt to intimidate and harass the Post and its staff, we will continue to do the work that democracy demands of a free and independent press."
The Justice Department has issued a statement saying the phone call did not break any campaign finance laws, and "no further action was warranted."
According to the Post — which had the story first and cited Trump advisers and people familiar with the matter — the president in recent weeks said he wished Barr would have held a news conference.
The Justice Department has not commented; but, a senior administration official says any report that tension exists because there was a statement but no news conference is "completely false."
Reporters had anticipated questioning the president on Thursday afternoon about the matter, but an Oval Office event, the National Day for the Victims of Communism, was closed to the White House press pool at the last minute.
Reporters say they were given no explanation for the sudden change of plans.