Attorney General William Barr on Friday continued to go to bat for President Donald Trump, reiterating his attempt to justify his investigation into the origins of the FBI investigation into Trump campaign’s ties to Russia ― including by claiming without evidence that U.S. government “spying” on Trump’s campaign was just as grave as Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I think people have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we’re worried about foreign influence, for the very same reason we should be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale,” he said in a Fox News interview airing Friday. “I’m not saying that happened, but I’m saying that we have to look at that.”
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Barr also reiterated his claim that “government power was used to spy on American citizens,” declining to specify more.
Barr has reportedly been assembling a team to probe the origins of the July 2016 counterintelligence investigation into Trump campaign officials’ contacts with Russia, opened by the FBI.
Trump has also repeatedly floated unspecified claims of illegal surveillance, in an attempt to attack the FBI and denigrate the investigation as “a witch hunt.”
During Senate testimony last month, Barr said he was “concerned” that the FBI had been “spying” on Trump’s campaign, but had “no specific evidence.”
Last week, FBI director Christopher Wray pushed back on Barr’s claim.
“Well, that’s not the term I would use,” Wray told senators. “Look, there are lots of people who have different colloquial phrases. I believe that the FBI’s 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.”
Wray later added that he did not “personally” have evidence that the FBI illegally spied on Trump’s campaign.
In a tweetstorm Friday, Trump reiterated his spying claim.
Democrats have scrutinized Barr’s vehement defense of Trump, which has included declining to release an unredacted version of the report by special counsel Robert Mueller, and its underlying evidence.
Earlier this month, Barr also skipped a House Judiciary Committee hearing and declined to comply with the committee’s subpoena, leading the committee to vote to hold him in contempt.