This remarkable claim by the recently Trump-appointed AG came minutes after Trump announced to reporters on the White House lawn that what had occurred was “illegal” and “treasonous.”
In the context of a morning news report Barr was assembling a team to investigate the origins of the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen asked Barr, during his testimony before a Senate committee, “Why you felt the need to form that kind of a team and what you intend to be the scope of their investigation?”
Barr dodged, noting he had said during his confirmation hearing he would review the “genesis and conduct” of intel work directed at Trump’s campaign.
When Shaheen persisted, Barr acknowledged he had no actual evidence, but had “concerns.”
Barr acknowledged a lot has already been investigated, by the inspector general at the department.
Natural next question as to why he felt the need to re-investigate Barr answered saying, “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal.” He equated Trump’s claims of having been spied on Vietnam era concerns about government spying on anti-war protesters,” and the rules put in place at that time.
“I’m not suggesting those rules were violated but it is important to look at that,” Barr insisted.
“So you’re not suggesting spying occurred?” Shaheen pressed.
“I think spying did occur,” Barr shot back.
As the ground shook on Capitol Hill, Dem Sen. Brian Schatz threw Barr a lifeline, saying he wanted to give him “a chance to rephrase” that.
“I want to give you a chance to re-phrase something you said, Schatz said. “Because, when the attorney general of the United States uses the word ‘spying’ it’s rather provocative – and, in my view, unnecessarily inflammatory.”
“Do you want to rephrase what you’re doing, because I think the word ‘spying’ could cause everybody in the cable news ecosystem to freak out,” the senator said.
“I’m not sure of all the connotations of that word you are referring to,” responded AG Barr, stretching credulity, and adding, “unauthorized surveillance – Is that more appropriate in your mind?”
Earlier, when asked if he would characterize the investigation, as has Trump repeatedly, as a “witch hunt,” Barr ducked again, saying he was “not going to characterize it.”
One day earlier, cantankerous Barr told the House Appropriations Subcommittee his redacted Mueller report will be ready within a week, but would not commit to releasing the un-redacted version.
He currently is color coding the report to identify thinking behind the redactions, broken into four categories:
-Grand jury information
-Information that would reveal intelligence sources and/or methods
-Information that could interfere with ongoing spinoff prosecutions
-Information that implicated the privacy of “peripheral players” not being charged with any crime
Barr said Special Counsel Robert Mueller is working with him on identifying those redactions.
When asked, he said Mueller was offered a chance to review Barr’s CliffsNotes-ish letter about Mueller’s 400-ish page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller declined, he said.
Barr refused to say if the White House already had seen the Mueller report.