Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBarr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event Virginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' MORE said Wednesday that he is looking into efforts by the FBI to investigate members of the Trump campaign before the 2016 election, saying he believes "spying” took place and he needs to be sure it was justified.
“I think spying did occur,” Barr said during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. “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.”
“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016,” Barr told lawmakers. “A lot of this has already been investigated and a substantial portion that’s being investigated is being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the department.”
In later remarks, Barr attempted to clarify his statement, saying he was concerned that “improper surveillance” may have occurred in 2016 and he was "looking into it."
"I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I'm saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it. That's all," he said.
Barr downplayed recent reports that he had formed a team to investigate the FBI’s actions in the original Russia counterintelligence probe, but said he had in mind bringing “some colleagues” together to review information turned up by the inspector general investigation, as well as Republican-led congressional probes to determine whether there is a need for further investigation at the Justice Department.
Barr said he is particularly concerned about why the Trump campaign was not notified about the FBI’s counterintelligence probe.
“That is one of the questions I have, that I feel normally the campaign would have been advised of this,” Barr told Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Graham found Trump election fraud arguments suitable for 'third grade': Woodward book Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan MORE (R-S.C.).
The attorney general cited the involvement of two former U.S. attorneys — Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani — in the Trump campaign in saying he was concerned that they weren’t notified of any investigation.
“I just want to satisfy myself that there was no abuse of law enforcement or intelligence powers,” Barr told Graham.
The developments are sure to be welcome news to President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE, who has asked for further investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation and suggested FBI agents were biased against his campaign.
Republicans have also long raised concerns about a surveillance warrant that was used to wiretap former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, saying the FBI improperly obtained the warrant.
Barr said Wednesday he planned to look at the actions of the intelligence community more broadly and not just the FBI. He also insisted he was not “launching investigation into the FBI.”
“To the extent there were any issues of the FBI, I do not view it as a problem that is endemic to the FBI,” Barr said, noting that likely there were “failures” by leaders in the bureau’s former top brass and commending the leadership of current FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“If it becomes necessary to look over some former officials’ activities, I expect I’ll be able to heavily rely on Chris,” Barr said. “I believe I have an obligation to make sure government power is not abused.”
In separate congressional hearings both Tuesday and Wednesday, Barr faced multiple questions about his handling of 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 final report on his investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling. He hopes to release a redacted version of the report within a week.
Barr told Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake MORE (D-R.I.) that he isn’t aware of “specific evidence” that actions taken during the original FBI probe into Russian interference or Mueller’s probe were improper.
But he reiterated that he wants to review the intelligence community’s actions in the original counterintelligence probe.
“I have no specific evidence that I have now,” Barr said. “I have questions about it.”
“I have concerns about various aspects of it,” he added.
Updated at 1:36 p.m.