William Barr says 'spying did occur' on Trump campaign during Obama era

Geraldine Edwards
April 11, 2019

"The ways in which the attorney general has sought to restrict, control, redact this report has created more confusion rather than more transparency".

"I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal", Barr said, adding when pressed: "I think spying did occur, yes". And I'm not suggesting that it wasn't adequately predicated.

Barr's inquiry into the origins of the Russian Federation probe is reportedly separate from the long-running investigation being conducted by the inspector general's office in the Department of Justice into aspects of the Russian Federation probe, including whether law enforcement officials abused their powers to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser.

Congressional Republicans - and the president - have alleged that officials improperly relied on that dossier to obtain a secret warrant to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. He was mocked by the media. Various FBI and Justice Department officials involved have resisted that characterization, saying that the counterintelligence probe, officially launched by the FBI on July 31, 2016, was only aimed at four Americans who were connected to the campaign. "I'm willing to work with the committees", he said.

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Trump, speaking to reporters Wednesday at the White House, decreed it an "illegal investigation" conducted by "dirty cops". Later he praised FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who does not sit on the appropriations subcommittee before which Barr appeared on Wednesday but is vice chair of the Senate intelligence committee, responded on Twitter to what he called Barr's irresponsible airing of conspiracy theories.

Barr did say the core question is whether that spying was justified, and said it might have been.

Barr's inquiry is separate from a long-running investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general. Since Barr released his 4-page summary exonerating Trump, some on Mueller's team have claimed he downplayed the seriousness of their findings. "To have Barr agree that there was spying on the campaign means accountability is only one step away from bringing those who broke the law to justice".

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Trump has repeatedly demanded an inquiry into what he considers Federal Bureau of Investigation and government misconduct during what became the Russian Federation probe. Barr said he can't do that, but did promise senators more access to the investigation when it comes to the grand jury material.

Obama has denied any involvement in the Federal Bureau of Investigation requests to surveil the Trump campaign before the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) courts, but this denial is extremely disingenuous.

Barr was loath to provide many details other than to say that the Justice Department planned to release the redacted report in the next week.

Later in the hearing, Barr elaborated, saying, "I believe there is a basis for my concern, but I'm not going to discuss the basis".

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