Attorney General William Barr believes the Obama administration spied on the Trump 2016 campaign.
The comment came after reports that Barr will create an internal Department of Justice team to investigate “controversial counterintelligence decisions” made by the DOJ and the FBI in the Russia probe, including those made by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) questioned Barr on his decision to convene such a team. “News just broke today that you have a special team looking into why the FBI opened an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections,” she said. “I wonder if you can share with this committee who is on that team, why you felt a need to form that kind of a team and what you intend to be the scope of their investigation?”
“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016,” Barr responded. “One of the things I want to do is pull together all the information from the various investigations that have gone on... and see if there are any remaining questions to be addressed.”
Sen. Shaheen then questioned Barr further: “You’re not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?”
And Barr replied: “I don’t—well, I guess you could. I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur.”
The attorney general continued, hedging that he wants to determine whether such alleged surveillance was legal or not. “There were a lot of rules put in place to make sure that there’s an adequate basis before our law-enforcement agencies get involved in political surveillance,” he said. “I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that. And I’m not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.”
He added: “Congress is usually very concerned about intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane, and I want to make sure that happened.”
The attorney general’s suggestion echoes President Trump’s longstanding claims that the feds spied upon his campaign.
Shortly after taking office, Trump infamously tweeted an unfounded claim that Obama ordered a wiretap of his campaign. “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” he wrote.
Last year, the president tweeted: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”
And on Wednesday, Trump told reporters that the Mueller probe was an “attempted coup.” And he praised Barr’s decision to look into the FBI and DOJ’s actions: “He’s doing a great job getting started on going back to the origins of exactly where this all started because this was an illegal witch hunt... and what they did was treason.”