Barr defends use of 'spying' to describe Trump campaign probe

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrForeign interference is a threat to the 2020 elections — presidential interference is, too Foreign interference is a threat to the 2020 elections — presidential interference is, too America's crisis of compassion is a Constitutional crisis, too MORE defended his use of the word “spying” to describe intelligence collection on the Trump campaign during an interview airing Friday morning.

“I guess it’s become a dirty word somehow,” Barr said in an interview on “CBS This Morning.”

“It has never been to me. I think there's nothing wrong with spying. The question is always whether it’s authorized by law.” 

Barr also said he has “a lot of questions” about the origins of the investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, saying some of the facts “don’t hang together” with the official explanations for the investigative activities.

Barr has faced criticism from Democrats and some former officials and critics of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE for saying in April that he believed the Trump campaign was spied on. Barr is currently conducting an inquiry into the origins of the counterintelligence probe into Russian interference to determine whether surveillance was adequately predicated.

ADVERTISEMENT

He has faced accusations that he is legitimizing conspiracy theories by using the word “spying.” The president and other Republicans have long alleged the Russia probe was started by FBI agents biased against Trump who didn’t want him to win the 2016 election.

“It is part of the craziness of the modern day that if a president uses a word then all of a sudden it becomes off bounds,” Barr told CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford in the interview that aired Friday. “It’s a perfectly good English word. I’ll continue to use it.” 

In Senate testimony earlier this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he would not use the word “spying” to describe lawful FBI investigative activities. He also said he did not have evidence the FBI engaged in illegal surveillance on the Trump campaign but described Barr’s inquiry as appropriate.

Barr would not detail any specific evidence he has seen that concerns him in the CBS interview but underscored that he has continued questions about the origins of the investigation. 

“I had a lot of questions about what was going on and I assumed I would get answers when I went in and I have not gotten answers that are at all satisfactory,” Barr said.

“In fact, I probably have more questions,” Barr continued. “Some of the facts I have learned don’t hang together with the official explanations of what happened.” 

Last week, Trump gave Barr broad powers to declassify and release materials related to the investigation, and he ordered U.S. intelligence chiefs to cooperate with the investigation. 

Trump has accused former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyPress: Why do we need a new press secretary? Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House MORE and others of engaging in “treason,” something Barr broke with him on in the interview Friday. 

"Not as a legal matter, no," Barr told CBS when asked if he believed senior Obama administration officials committed treason.