Attorney General William Barr told senators during a hearing Wednesday that he thinks that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did spy on the Trump campaign.
“Yes, I think spying did occur,” Barr said. “But the question is whether it was predicated — adequately predicated, and I’m not suggesting that it wasn’t adequately predicated, but I need to explore that. I think it’s my obligation. Congress is usually concerned about intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane, and I want to make sure that happened. We have a lot of rules about that.”
The attorney general said that he has not yet set up a team to review the FBI’s actions, despite a Bloomberg report on Tuesday that alleged he has formed a team.
“I haven’t set up a team yet but I have in mind having some colleagues pull all this information together and let me know whether there’s some areas that should be looked at,” he said.
Barr first announced during a House hearing on Tuesday that he would investigate the FBI’s “conduct” in investigating the Trump campaign.
“I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016,” Barr said.
On Wednesday, he told senators while testifying on the Justice Department’s fiscal year 2020 budget that he would be reviewing “both the genesis and the conduct” of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign.
“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016,” he said.
Barr said he would pull together the information from various investigations from the Justice Department inspector general, within the DOJ, and from Congress to see whether there are “remaining questions” to be addressed.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asked Barr to share “why you feel the need to do that.”
Barr responded, “Well, for the same reason we’re worried about foreign influence in elections. We want to make sure that — I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It’s a big deal.”
Barr said during the Vietnam War period, people were concerned about government spying on anti-war protesters and a lot of rules were put in place to make sure there was an adequate basis before law enforcement agencies got involved in “political surveillance.”
“I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that. And I’m not just — I’m not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly,” he said
Barr added that he wanted to make clear that he was not launching an investigation into the FBI — just those who may have engaged in improper activities.
“To the extent there were any issues at the FBI, I do not view it as a problem that’s endemic to the FBI, I think there was probably a failure among a group of leaders there at the upper echelon.”
He said if it became necessary to look over some former officials’ activities, he would be relying heavily on FBI Director Christopher Wray and “work closely with him in looking at that information.”
“I feel I have an obligation to make sure that government power is not abused, I mean I think that’s one of the principal roles of Attorney General,” he said.
President famously tweeted on March 4, 2017, that the Obama administration had wiretapped his campaign headquarters before the election.
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017