On Wednesday morning, Attorney General (AG) William Barr told a Senate panel that he believes the Obama administration spied on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He later emphasized the spying as being “a big deal.”
Mr. Barr made the comments during an exchange with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who questioned the AG over an investigation concerning the FISA process in the Russia investigation.
“News just broke today that you have a special team looking into why the FBI opened an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections,” said Sen. Shaheen, according to The Daily Beast. “I wonder if you can share with this committee who is on that team, why you felt a need to form that kind of a team and what you intend to be the scope of their investigation?”
“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016,” Barr responded. “One of the things I want to do is pull together all the information from the various investigations that have gone on…and see if there are any remaining questions to be addressed.”
Asked to clarify if “spying occurred” on the Trump campaign, Barr replied, “I don’t—well, I guess you could. I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur.”
The AG continued, “There were a lot of rules put in place to make sure that there’s an adequate basis before our law enforcement agencies get involved in political surveillance. I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that. And I’m not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.”
Barr said on Tuesday that the investigation into alleged FISA abuses will be completed in the coming months.
“The Office of the Inspector General has a pending investigation of the FISA process in the Russia investigation,” the AG said, according to CNS News. “I expect that will be complete in probably May or June, I am told.”
“So hopefully we’ll have some answers from Inspector General Horowitz on the issue of FISA warrants. More generally, I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016,” he added.
In May of 2017, President Trump took to Twitter to assert that he was spied on the Obama administration.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” he wrote. The claim was thoroughly mocked by the mainstream media.
The following year, Trump tweeted: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”
When Shaheen questioned why it was important to investigate if such abuses occurred, Barr emphasized the obvious: Just as foreign influence is “a big deal,” so, too, is a political campaign being spied on by a sitting administration.