Barr defends use of the word 'spying'

Barr defends use of the word 'spying'

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan House Intelligence enjoys breakthrough with Justice Department Schiff blasts Trump's 'un-American' order to intel agencies to cooperate with Barr probe MORE defended his use of the term “spying” from his testimony before Congress last month, saying he doesn’t believe the word has a negative implication.

“I don’t think spying has any pejorative at all,” Barr said Wednesday during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in response to a question from Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Democratic senators want NBC primary debate to focus on climate change Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog finds Pruitt spent 4K on 'excessive' travel | Agency defends Pruitt expenses | Lawmakers push EPA to recover money | Inslee proposes spending T for green jobs MORE (D-R.I.).

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He said he considers the term to encompass all kinds of surveillance.

“I’m not going to back off the word ‘spying,’ ” Barr said, noting that the word was also frequently used in media reports.

Barr faced criticism from Democrats who claimed that the attorney general’s use of the term to describe surveillance relating to the Trump campaign in 2016 indicated that he was biased toward the president, who has, in turn, claimed that the Justice Department is biased against him.

Some Democratic lawmakers questioned Barr’s credibility after he used the term.

Whitehouse also pressed Barr, who is testifying on the results of the Russia investigation, on when he decided to make public the letter special counsel Robert Mueller sent to Barr objecting to his summary of its findings. 

Whitehouse asked whether Barr would "concede" he could have made the letter public in early April when he was asked "related" questions.

"I don't know what you mean by related question, it seems to me to be a very different question," Barr said.

“I can’t even follow that down the road. Boy, that’s some masterful hair-splitting," Whitehouse replied.