FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators Tuesday he would not use the term “spying” to describe the bureau’s surveillance activities, including those used against the Trump campaign.
“Well that’s not the term I would use,” Wray said in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing when asked whether the FBI carries out “spying” during its various investigations.
Wray’s remarks are a contradiction of sorts of Attorney General William Barr’s congressional testimony that he believes government agencies spied on the Trump campaign.
“I think spying did occur,” Barr told the House Appropriations Committee on April 10.
While Wray distanced himself from Barr’s remarks, he offered a diplomatic response when asked about the use of the “spying” term.
“Lots of people have different colloquial phrases,” Wray said.
“I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity and part of investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes. And to me the key question is making sure that it’s done by the book consistent with our lawful authorities.”
Wray said he was not personally aware of any evidence the FBI illegally surveilled the Trump campaign.
The FBI relied on the unverified Steele dossier to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
An FBI informant, Stefan Halper, also made contact during the campaign with Page and two other Trump aides, George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis. Halper was accompanied on his outreach to Papadopoulos by a government investigators working under the alias Azra Turk. It remains unclear if Turk was working for the FBI or another government agency, such as the CIA.
The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating the matter. Barr testified that he formed a task force within the Justice Department to investigate the origins of the Russia probe. Wray said he has been in close contact with Barr regarding the investigation.
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