Washington: US Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday (local time) said that he was looking into FBI’s efforts to probe US President Donald Trump’s campaign members before the 2016 presidential election, adding that he believes “spying” took place.
“I think spying did occur. But the question is whether it was adequately predicated and I’m not suggesting it wasn’t adequately predicated, but I need to explore that,” The Hill quoted Barr as saying during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016. A lot of this has already been investigated and a substantial portion that’s being investigated is being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the department,” he added.
Later, Barr tried to clarify his stance, saying that he was concerned that “improper surveillance” may have taken place in 2016 and he was “looking into it”.
“I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I’m saying that I am concerned about it and looking into it. That’s all,” he said.
Barr underlined that he was mulling to look at the actions of the intelligence community “more broadly” and not just the FBI. He argued that he was not “initiating” a probe into the FBI.
“To the extent, there were any issues of the FBI, I do not view it as a problem that is endemic to the FBI,” he further said.
On Tuesday, Barr had announced that he will make public special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election “within a week”.
Testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee on the Justice Department’s fiscal 2020 budget request, Barr underlined that some modifications would be made to the 400-page report to make some portions colour-coded and footnoted so that the public will get to know why the Justice Department decided to make such a move.
“The process is going along very well. My original timetable of being able to release this by mid-April stands. Within a week, I will be in a position to release the report to the public and then I will engage with the chairman of the Judiciary committees on its release to the Congress,” The Hill quoted Barr as saying.
Explaining his move to present a redacted report, Barr informed that authorities would colour code classified information and explanatory notes would be provided for the reason of each redaction.
On March 24, Barr had submitted his principal conclusions from Mueller’s 22-month long investigation into alleged Russia interference in the 2016 elections to the US Congress.
While Mueller stated that Trump and his associates did not conspire with Russians, he has not completely exonerated the US President. The special counsel did not “make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” in his report, according to Barr.
While Trump and top Republican leaders welcomed Barr’s summary of the Mueller report, several Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have alleged discrepancies and called for transparency.
In the Mueller inquiry, 500 witnesses were interviewed and more than 3,500 subpoenas and warrants were obtained of various types. As many as 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence were also made as part of the massive investigation.