Top Senate Democrats are demanding Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ Five takeaways: Report details Trump's election pressure campaign Biden slips further back to failed China policies 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 TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE's campaign.
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters 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 (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's probe.
"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."