Attorney General William Barr was dismayed to discover President Trump had grouped him in with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in a call with Ukraine’s leader in July.
When Barr learned of the call, he was “surprised and angry” that Trump lumped him in with Giuliani, a person familiar with the attorney general’s thinking told the Associated Press. Giuliani represents Trump’s personal interests and is not employed by the U.S. government.
I saw this issue when I wrote about the call transcript originally--Woops! Dems Score Own Goal. At the time I maintained that Trump attempted to maintain the distinction between his personal attorney's (Giuliani's) interest and the Attorney General's official interest. I still do maintain that Trump didn't "lump" Barr "in with Giuliani" and intended to maintain the distinction between his personal lawyer and the Attorney General of the United States. Zelenskyy introduces the idea of speaking to Giuliani. Trump appears to me to deflect that to indicate that he wants Barr involved because what's under discussion is an official DoJ investigation:
[P]lease note that it's President Zelenskyy who asks Giuliani to get in touch with him--it appears to be Zelenskyy's attempt at ingratiating himself with Trump, by seeking out Trump's personal attorney. Trump's response is very, very telling. At every mention [by Zelenskyy] of Giuliani, Trump is careful to include AG Barr, to keep it on an official footing, not personal. That's all the confirmation you need to know that the investigation under discussion is being led by the US Department of Justice and that Trump is totally aware of the distinction between his private attorney and the DoJ. Trump is supporting his Attorney General and the Department of Justice, but at the same time he's entitled to his private legal team to protect him--both going back and going forward--against the lawfare assaults, both legal and illegal, that have been ongoing since long before his election.
At the beginning of this relevant portion, Trump introduces the topic of Ukraine doing the US "a favor." That favor doesn't involve Biden--it has to do with the DNC server, which Bill Barr is seeking. Note that there's no mention by Trump of Giuliani, but instead "the Attorney General" is brought in as the person who needs to be in touch with the Ukrainian authorities ("you or your people"). [Comment: The reason why Trump doesn't mention Giuliani here should be apparent: Trump understands that Giuliani, as his personal attorney, is not the one to take custody of evidence. That's why Trump speaks of Barr, not Giuliani. It shows that Trump does understand the distinction, that Barr does not act as his personal attorney.]
I believe that a fair reading of the transcript (at the link above) bears out that that was Trump's true intent. Trump, the non-lawyer, was aware of the distinction and attempted to address it while allowing the flow of the conversation to continue. The result is inartful, but not improper under any fair reading.
I will say that I'm surprised that Trump didn't consult with Barr before the call, although I don't know the circumstances surrounding the call. I can understand Barr's "dismay," fully. I'm sure both Giuliani and Barr have now spoken with Trump about this and that Trump will be more careful in the future. Unnecessary damage has been done by affording an opportunity to place Trump's words in a false light.
ADDENDUM: I have not doubt that a major reason for Barr's anger is that Trump's inartful language--though well intended--placed him in the position of needing to release a transcript of his call with a foreign leader. That's a terrible precedent and could play havoc with foreign policy for the future. Barr, as an ardent defender of the Executive, could hardly be less than deeply dismayed by this development. I myself was extremely surprised at the release of the transcript, which is an indication of how seriously this was viewed at the WH.
UPDATE 1: An article by Gregg Jarrett expresses well what I've been saying in my own way, and adds some detail:
Trump had every right to ask Ukraine to cooperate or assist in an official Department of Justice investigation into the origins of the Russia “collusion” hoax. His request was pursuant to an official probe being conducted by U.S. Attorney John Durham and initiated by Attorney General William Barr. In fact, Ukraine is required to comply under a binding treaty with the U.S.
The Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters obligates Ukraine to provide, upon request by the U.S., assistance “in connection with the investigation, prosecution, and prevention of offenses, and in proceedings related to criminal matters.” This treaty was negotiated by then-president Bill Clinton more than 20 years ago and approved by the U.S. Senate. Among other things, Ukraine agreed to furnish “documents, records, the taking of testimony or statements of persons” relevant to any U.S. investigation.
Unfortunately, Kiev has not always abided by this treaty. Beset by rampant corruption, past Ukrainian administrations have been less than cooperative with the U.S. Indeed, there is significant evidence that Ukraine actively meddled in the 2016 election by providing dirt on the Trump campaign at the behest of a Democratic National Committee subcontractor who wanted to help elect Hillary Clinton. This is detailed in my new book, "Witch Hunt."
With the election of a new Ukrainian president who vowed to end the rampant corruption, President Trump saw an opportunity to reset relations and obtain assistance in the Durham investigation. As pointed out by columnist Marc Thiessen, the DOJ has disclosed that it is “exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the campaign during the 2016 election.”
Despite media and Democrat misrepresentations of the conversation, the “do us a favor” remark by Trump was a request that Ukraine cooperate in the Durham probe. The president phrased it in a friendly manner to enlist Zelensky’s assistance, even though it is incumbent on Ukraine to do so under the terms of the treaty. It is not at all unusual for the U.S. government or its president to ask for help from a foreign nation in extant investigations conducted by the DOJ.
UPDATE 2: With all that said, in retrospect and in fairness to Trump ...
Trump never expected that this call transcript would go public and become an issue. He had, in fact, taken extra security precautions to maintain the confidentiality of the conversation with Zelenskyy, and he had every reason to feel that he had behaved properly. He was ambushed and forced into a false position by traitors to the United States who should be prosecuted.
UPDATE 3: Just to be clear again, I'm not suggesting that anything in the actual transcript shows that AG Barr was acting as, in effect, a campaign lawyer for Trump. It's totally clear from the transcript that Trump is presenting the Attorney General as heading an investigation into the origins of the Russia Hoax--as Barr has openly stated. The problem, which I don't doubt dismayed Barr, is that the mere proximity of Barr's name with Giuliani's--within the same sentence--facilitates patently false political charges against Barr. Barr, I'm sure, will swat those away, but the annoyance and false public perception could have been avoided even aside from the outrageous forced disclosure of the call transcript. IOW, the transcript never should have been released, but since it was it's too bad that there should have been an opportunity to confuse and misrepresent based on inartful phrasing.