Attorney General Says Spying On Trump Campaign Did Occur

Washington – During a United States Justice Department oversight hearing this morning attorney general William Barr said that he thinks spying did occur during the 2016 presidential election.

Below is the Q & A that lead to today’s comment.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen: thank you. 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. I wonder if you can share with this committee who’s on this team, why you felt a need to form that kind of a team and what you intend to be the scope of their investigation.

Ag William Barr: yeah. As I said in my confirmation hearing, 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 and a substantial portion of it has been investigated and is being investigated by the office of inspector general at the department. 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, and see if there are any remaining questions to be addressed.

And can you share with us why you feel a need to do that?

Ag William Barr: Well, you know, for the same reason we’re worried about foreign influence in elections. We want to make sure that during — I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It’s a big deal. The generation I grew up in which is the Vietnam par period war period, people were all concerned about spying on anti-war people and so forth by the government and there were a lot of rules put in place to make sure there’s an adequate basis before our law enforcement agencies get 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 talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen: so you’re not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?

Ag William Barr: Well, I guess — I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur.

Ag William Barr: the question was whether it was adequately predicated. And I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated. 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. I want to make sure that happened. We have a lot of rules about that. I want to say that I’ve said I’m reviewing this. I haven’t set up a team yet, but I have in mind having some colleagues help me pull all this information together and letting me know whether there are some areas that should be looked at. I also want to make clear. This is not launching an investigation of the FBI. Frankly, 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. So I don’t like to hear attacks about the FBI because I think the FBI is an outstanding organization and I think Chris Wray is a great partner for me. I’m very pleased he’s the director. If it becomes necessary to look over some former officials’ activities, I expect I’ll be relying heavily on Chris and work closely with him in looking at that information. But that’s what I’m doing. I feel I have an obligation to make sure that government power is not abused. I think that’s one of the principal roles of the attorney general.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen: I certainly agree. I think we all have an obligation to make sure government power is not abused. The question I have is what happens when the executive is potentially playing that role? That’s where it doesn’t seem to me there has been adequate oversight. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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