Attorney General William Barr dropped a bombshell Wednesday, telling a group of senators that he believes spying against the Trump campaign did take place in 2016.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr said during an exchange with Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Shaheen asked in a follow-up whether Barr believed the FBI spied on the Trump team.
“You’re not suggesting, though, that spying occurred?” Shaheen asked.
“I think spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur. But the question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated,” Barr said.
“I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicted, but I need to explore that.”
Barr was discussing his plans to investigate the FBI’s decision to open a counterintelligence investigation against Trump campaign associates. The bureau used confidential informants and relied heavily on the Democrat-funded Steele dossier as part of the investigation, which was code-named Crossfire Hurricane.
President Donald Trump and other Republicans have dubbed the counterintelligence probe “Spygate,” especially regarding the FBI’s use of an informant named Stefan Halper. Halper, a former Cambridge professor, made contact with at least three Trump campaign advisers, Carter Page, Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos.
Democrats have bristled at the term “spy” to describe the FBI’s confidential human sources.
Barr said that he plans to form a team to gather information from the Justice Department and Capitol Hill related to the FBI’s investigation, which was formally opened on July 31, 2016.
“I’m not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that.”
“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of the intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016,” Barr said.
Barr said that he will not be investigating the entire FBI.
“This is not launching an investigation of the FBI,” he added. “To the extent there were any issues at the FBI, I do not view it as a problem that’s endemic to the FBI. I think there was probably a failure among a group of leaders there at the upper echelon, so I don’t like to hear attacks of the FBI.”
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