Trump seizes on Barr's 'spying' remark

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE said Thursday that he "absolutely" believes there was "unprecedented" spying on his campaign in 2016, a day after Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrDemocratic lawmaker calls asylum, refugee programs 'crown jewel' of immigration system Trump says he won't watch Mueller testimony Cummings asks prosecutors about decision not to charge Trump in hush money probe MORE made the assertion during testimony on Capitol Hill.

"I think what he said was absolutely true," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with the South Korean president.

"There was absolutely spying into my campaign," he continued. "I’ll go a step further. In my opinion it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying and something that should never be allowed to happen in our country again."

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The president on Thursday reiterated his call for a probe into the origins of the investigation of his 2016 campaign, calling the alleged surveillance "treason" and suggesting it would be a "disservice to our country" not to look into his claims.

"You're just lucky I happened to be the president because a lot of other presidents would have reacted much differently than I reacted," Trump added. "You’re very lucky I was the president during this scam."

Barr said Wednesday during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that he is looking into efforts by the FBI to investigate members of the Trump campaign before the 2016 election.

“I think spying did occur,” Barr said. “But the question is whether it was adequately predicated and I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated, but I need to explore that.”

Asked later whether he wanted to clarify his use of the word "spying," Barr said he was looking into whether “improper surveillance” may have occurred in 2016.

“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016,” Barr said. “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal.”

The attorney general's comments set off a political firestorm, with Democrats accusing the nation's top law enforcement official of carrying water for the president's long-held beliefs that the FBI acted improperly.

Trump's allies cheered Barr's commitment to looking into the origins of the counterintelligence probe into Russian interference. A number of conservative lawmakers have maintained that the investigation into the president's campaign was politically motivated and based on unverified opposition research, particularly pointed to a warrant used to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Barr's "spying" remarks kept him squarely in the spotlight as he prepares to release a redacted version of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE's report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Barr wrote last month in a four-page summary of Mueller's probe that the investigation did not establish the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government and neither implicated nor exonerated the president on obstruction of justice. Barr said he reviewed the findings and judged the evidence to be insufficient to bring an obstruction-of-justice charge against Trump.

The president has declared exoneration as a result of Barr's findings, despite some concerns that Mueller's full report may be more damaging.

Trump said Thursday he is not concerned about Barr's comments a day earlier that he would not redact the report to protect the president's reputation, because "we never did anything wrong."