In an appearance before a Senate panel on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr declared he thinks “spying did occur” during the 2016 presidential election—only it was against Donald Trump’s campaign. Barr’s concerns suggest that the Russia investigation may have been mishandled from the beginning.
Appearing before a Senate budget panel, Barr ended up mostly fielding questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation. At one point, Barr seemed to allude to a warrant the FBI obtained on a former Trump campaign aide. During questioning on the matter, Barr stated, “Yes, I think spying did occur” and that he considered spying on a political campaign to be a “big deal.” Barr did not say exactly what spying may have taken place. He later added that although he did not have specific evidence of wrongdoing, “I do have questions about it.”
At the hearing, senators appeared taken aback by Barr’s use of the word “spying.” Barr is an experienced public figure who chooses his words carefully. (Imagine being known for such a character trait! “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” — Proverbs 17:27)
It’s not clear whether Barr realized what a political storm he’d create in using the word “spying.”
Barr's remarks boost Trump supporters who insist his 2016 campaign was unfairly targeted by the FBI. But the statements inflame Democrats already frustrated by Barr's handling of the Mueller report—especially the release of a four-page summary letter last month that they say is overly favorable to the president.
The attorney general has stated that he expects to release a redacted (edited to avoid legal or security issues) version of the report next week.
(Attorney General William Barr appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee to make his Justice Department budget request, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Washington. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)