Accuracy in Media

Vox reported on Friday that “Attorney General William Barr has mostly stayed quietly on the sidelines in the Ukraine impeachment investigation – apparently to President Donald Trump’s irritation.”

It said the Washington Post “reported Wednesday that Trump had wanted Barr to hold a press conference declaring the president had done nothing wrong in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky in which Trump pressured the leader to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

“The New York Times and ABC News later confirmed the Post’s reporting.”

But did they? Is any of this confirmed?

Barr “ultimately declined to hold a press conference as the president wanted,” Jen Kirby continued in “Trump reportedly wanted Bill Barr to give a press conference about his Ukraine call” – subhead: “Trump denies it, but it looked like he wanted the attorney general to clean up his mess, again.”

But the Department of Justice did release a statement saying its Criminal Division reviewed the call and determined there was no campaign finance violation and that no further action was warranted and that all components of the department agreed with the legal conclusion.

So Barr was willing to exonerate Trump, just not in the fashion mainstream media thought appropriate. And the Post’s reporting, which the president has vehemently challenged – “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 tweeted – has not been confirmed.

The Post attributed its story on Thursday to “people familiar with the matter,” “Trump advisers,” “people close to the administration,” a “senior administration official” and “those close to the administration,” who, “like others, … spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the politically fraught situation.”

In “Impeachment Inquiry Tests Ties Between Barr and Trump” – subhead: “The attorney general has not jumped in to publicly defend the president against the Democratic inquiry as he did with the Mueller investigation” – by Peter Baker, Katie Brenner and Maggie Haberman, the New York Times wrote that Barr “has remained out of the fray” of the impeachment inquiry, “resisting requests by intermediaries from Mr. Trump to go before the cameras to say no crime had been committed.”

It goes on to say: “The reluctance hints at a new distance between the two men, according to people who have spoken with them.” Barr points with pride to how much Trump “relies on him and treats him as a confidant,” the Times wrote without evidence. “But the impeachment debate seems to be testing those ties as House Democrats investigate” Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine.

It does point out that Barr said he has no recollection of the president asking him to hold a press conference and that the White House did not push back when the Justice Department released its statement exonerating the president instead.

Then, referring to the Ukraine investigation, the Times wrote: “To the extent that Mr. Trump was convinced that releasing the reconstructed transcript would clear him of wrongdoing, it was a major miscalculation.” As polling emerges showing Americans increasingly don’t see a case for impeachment and removal here, this judgment by the Times appears in question.

ABC said the story “was first reported by the Washington Post and multiple sources familiar with the matter confirmed it to ABC News.” It said “Sources said the request came in September, soon after the White House released a memorandum reconstructing the president’s call with Zelensky.”

But “Barr declined to hold the news conference, the sources told ABC News.”

The Times and ABC seem more certain of the allegation than the Post, which broke the story. “It is not immediately clear why Barr would not go beyond that statement with a televised assertion that the president broke no laws, nor was it clear how forcefully the president’s desire was communicated,” the Post wrote. “A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. A senior administration official said, “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.”

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