Top Senate Democrats are demanding Attorney General William BarrBill BarrJan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official Appeals court questions Biden DOJ stance on Trump obstruction memo Michael Cohen officially released from prison sentence 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 TrumpMedia giants side with Bannon on request to release Jan. 6 documents Cheney warns of consequences for Trump in dealings with Jan. 6 committee Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official MORE's campaign.
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats wrangle to keep climate priorities in spending bill Coons says White House could impose border fee for carbon-intensive products The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The omicron threat and Biden's plan to beat it 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) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate 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 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."