Attorney General William Barr told Congress that he will be looking into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation and revealed that he believes “spying did occur” on the 2016 Trump campaign.
Speaking before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, Barr testified that it was his “obligation” to investigate whether the federal government abused its surveillance powers.
Reports indicated that Barr had assembled a team to investigate the origins of the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, grilled Barr about why he was looking in to the start of the investigation and forming a “special team.”
“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016 and a lot has already been investigated…. by the office of the Inspector General, but one of the things I want to do is pull together all the information from the various investigations that have gone on, including on the Hill and in the Department,” he responded.
“Can you share with us why you feel a need to do that?” Shaheen asked.
“For the same reason we’re worried about foreign influence in elections … I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal, it’s a big deal,” Barr said.
“I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that. I’m not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly,” he said.
“You’re not suggesting that spying occurred?” Shaheen asked.
“I think spying did occur,” he replied after a pause.
“But the question is whether it was predicated – adequately predicated,” Barr added. “I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated, but I need to explore that. I think it’s my obligation. Congress is usually very concerned about intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane.”
He added that he has “an obligation to make sure government power is not abused and I think that’s one of the principal roles of the attorney general.”
Barr would not rephrase his “spying comment later when asked by Hawaii Democrat Sen. Brian Schatz who called his words “unnecessarily inflammatory.”
“The word spying could cause everybody in the cable news ecosystem to freak out,” Schatz warned.
“Unauthorized surveillance … is that more appropriate in your eyes?” Barr said.
When the panel chairman, Sen. Jerry Moran, asked Barr what the basis was for his comment, the attorney general told the Kansas Republican that “There is a basis for my concern, but I’m not going to discuss the basis.”
President Trump praised Barr and his efforts as he spoke to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday while preparing to depart to Texas.
“What I’m most interested in is getting started, hopefully the attorney general, he mentioned it yesterday, he is doing a great job. Getting started on going back to the origins of exactly where this all started,” he said. “Because this was an illegal witch hunt and everybody knew it.”
With Barr backing him now, Trump ratchets up his anger over angry Dems’ ‘attempted coup’ https://t.co/EI5Kb5o2Th
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) April 10, 2019
Trump slammed Mueller’s investigation as an “attempted coup” and blasted the “angry Democrats” who hated him as he spoke to reporters.