Senate Dems call for Barr to walk back 'spying' allegation

Top Senate Democrats are demanding Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Mueller report unveils American democracy under Russian attack Kellyanne Conway: Mueller didn't need to use the word 'exoneration' in report MORE walk back his accusation that the Trump campaign was spied on by the FBI.

Barr sparked a political firestorm earlier Wednesday when he told senators that he believed "spying did occur" during the 2016 election and that he would be reviewing the probe of President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE's campaign.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference MORE (D-N.Y.) accused Barr of "perpetuating conspiracy theories" during his testimony before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee. The hearing was scheduled to discuss the department's budget but ultimately was dominated by questions about special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's probe.

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"AG Barr must retract his statement immediately or produce specific evidence to back it up," Schumer said in a tweet.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, added in a statement that Barr had "demanded himself" by "carelessly acting as a mouthpiece for President Trump's conspiracy theories."

“Attorney General Barr must retract his unfounded, irresponsible claim that American law enforcement ‘spied’ on the Trump Campaign. The only spies interfering in the 2016 campaign were Russian ones," Blumenthal said.

He added that Barr's comments have a "real, measurable impact on the lives and safety of our men and women in law enforcement. He owes them a retraction and an apology.”

Barr told senators on Wednesday that he was looking into the FBI's investigation of members of Trump's campaign and that he believes "spying" took place.

"The question is whether it was adequately predicated and I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated, but I need to explore that," he said.

Though Barr acknowledged that he did not have "specific evidence" that the FBI behaved improperly that he had "questions."

He later attempted to clarify his initial remarks, saying he is concerned that "improper surveillance" may have taken place during the 2016 election.

"I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred," he said. "I'm saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it. That's all."