US attorney general: I think spying did occur on Trump campaign
William Barr said that though he did not have specific evidence of wrongdoing, ‘I do have questions about it’.
US attorney general William Barr has said he is reviewing the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, declaring he believes the president’s campaign had been spied on and wants to make sure proper procedures were followed.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Mr Barr told senators at a budget hearing that, like a similar House hearing on Tuesday, was dominated by questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
It was not immediately clear what “spying” Mr Barr was referring to, but President Donald Trump’s supporters have repeatedly made accusations of political bias within the FBI and seized on anti-Trump text messages sent and received by one of the lead agents involved in investigating whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia.
I feel that I have an obligation to ensure government power was not abused William Barr, attorney general
Mr Barr, who was nominated to his post by Mr Trump four months ago, told a Senate appropriations subcommittee that though he did not have specific evidence of wrongdoing, “I do have questions about it”.
His review is separate from a Justice Department inspector general investigation into the early days of the FBI’s Russia probe, which Mr Barr said he expects to conclude sometime around May or June.
“I feel that I have an obligation to ensure government power was not abused,” Mr Barr said.
He also said he expected to release a redacted version of Mr Mueller’s nearly 400-page report next week – a slight change from the estimate he gave on Tuesday, when he said the release would be within a week.
Though he said the document will be redacted to withhold negative information about peripheral figures in the investigation, Mr Barr said that would not apply to Mr Trump, who is an officeholder and central to the probe.
Democrats said they were concerned that a four-page summary letter of the report’s main conclusions Mr Barr released last month portrayed the investigation’s findings in an overly favourable way for Mr Trump.
The letter said that Mr Mueller did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and Trump associates around the time of the 2016 election and that Mr Barr did not believe the evidence in the report was sufficient to prove the president had obstructed justice.