Attorney General William Barr said he believes President Trump was spied on during the 2016 presidential campaign.
During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Barr said “I think spying did occur,” and expressed plans to review the matter further.
“I think spying did occur,” Barr said. “Yes, I think spying did occur. But the question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated, and I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated. But I’d need to explore that.”
Barr added that “spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” stressing it’s importance along with preventing election meddling from foreign actors.
He acknowledged that possible spying was not a matter with the FBI in its entirety, but rather a group of leaders.
“I think there was probably a failure among the group of leaders,” Barr said. “I feel I have an obligation to make sure government power is not abused. I think that’s one of the principal roles of the attorney general.”
The alleged spying would have taken place in the summer of 2016 when the Obama DOJ initiated a counterintelligence investigation of four advisers on the Trump campaign, which later prompted the larger, nearly two-year probe headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Barr says he believes Trump’s 2016 campaign was spied on. @brianschatz: “Do you wanna rephrase … I think the word ‘spying’ could cause people in the cable news ecosystem to freak out.”
Barr: “Unauthorized surveillance … is that more appropriate in your eyes?” pic.twitter.com/nhZyIq8MhZ
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) April 10, 2019
Barr’s testimony gives weight to suspicions that Obama Administration intelligence officials spied on the Trump campaign for politically motivated reasons.
“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 added.
During that time period, the FBI and DOJ obtained a FISA court warrant to surveil Trump adviser Carter Page. The action was reportedly prompted by the infamous dossier penned by former British spy Christopher Steele, which contained salacious accusations against President Trump and the Russians, along with details of Page’s trip to Moscow.
However, Steele was contracted by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, hired by a Clinton campaign lawyer, and the document contained nothing more than third party hearsay.
By basing an investigation off the politically-orchestrated dossier, the FBI and DOJ violated their own rules which prohibits using unverified information in a FISA court, National Review reported. Further, the DOJ failed to inform the FISA court that the Clinton campaign was responsible for the dossier, and that Steele lied to the FBI, resulting in his termination from the investigation.
Wednesday’s Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing was the second day of questioning directed at Barr on his handling of the Mueller report, which members of Congress have been urging for a complete and full release.
Barr promised to release a redacted report within a week.