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story.lead_photo.caption Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers Wednesday that he would set up a team to examine the origins of the FBI investigation of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General William Barr, appearing before Congress for a second-straight day Wednesday, suggested that the government spied on President Donald Trump's campaign and said he would look into whether any rules were violated.

With the Russia investigation complete, Barr said he was preparing to review "both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign," including possible improper "spying" by U.S. intelligence agencies.

"I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal," Barr said, adding that he believed "spying did occur." Trump and his allies have accused the FBI and other government officials of abusing their power and starting the Russia investigation to sabotage the president.

"I am not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it's important to look at them," Barr said.

Later in the hearing, Barr offered a more tempered description of his concerns, saying that he wanted to understand whether there was "unauthorized surveillance" of political figures.

"I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I am saying I am concerned about it, and I am looking into it. That is all."

Barr's reference to "spying" may refer to a secret surveillance warrant that the FBI obtained in the fall of 2016 to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing and has denied being a Russian spy.

That warrant included a reference to research that was conducted by an ex-British spy who was funded by Democrats to look into Trump's ties to Russia.

Critics of the Russia investigation say the warrant on Page was unjustified and have also 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.

Barr said that he will work with FBI Director Christopher Wray to examine the origins of the bureau's counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign, and that he would soon set up a team for that effort. He noted that Congress and the Justice Department's inspector general have already completed investigations of that matter, and that after reviewing those investigations he would be able to see whether there were any "remaining questions to be addressed."

Democrats immediately seized on Barr's testimony.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused him in an interview of doing the president's bidding and said his "spying" comments undermine his position as the nation's top law enforcement official. "He is not the attorney general of Donald Trump. He is the attorney general of the United States," she said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York tweeted that Barr's comments "directly contradict" what the Justice Department previously has said, and intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California said Barr's testimony surely pleases Trump but "also strikes another destructive blow to our democratic institutions."

Republicans, meanwhile, praised Barr for looking into the matter. North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, a confidant to Trump who has raised concerns about Justice Department conduct for the past two years, tweeted that Barr's willingness to investigate it is "massive."

Before the hearing Wednesday, Trump claimed he had survived "an attempted coup" and said he no longer cares about the forthcoming release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report because, in his view, he has been exonerated.

Trump said he is hopeful that Barr would reveal "where exactly this all started."

"It was an illegal investigation. It was started illegally. Everything about it was crooked," Trump claimed. "This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president, and we beat them. We beat them."

Mueller was brought on board by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Republican and a Trump appointee, shortly after Trump abruptly fired then-FBI director James Comey amid his agency's probe of Russian interference.

OBSTRUCTION OR NOT

At Wednesday's hearing, Barr also shed some additional light on Mueller's decision not to reach a prosecutorial decision about whether Trump criminally obstructed the investigation and his own decision to conclude in his letter to Congress delivering the investigation's conclusions last month that the evidence did not meet that bar.

Barr said he had spoken with Mueller about why he did not reach a decision on obstruction of justice, but declined to offer details of their conversations. The attorney general said Mueller did not explicitly ask that Congress be allowed to judge the evidence and decide for itself, nor did he say that the attorney general should.

"But that is generally how the Department of Justice works," Barr said, saying that the department's job is to make prosecutorial decisions -- and he had.

"I am looking forward to explaining my decision that I briefly outlined in the March 24 letter, but I don't think I can do it until the report is out," he said.

On the timing of the redacted report's release, Barr said Wednesday that he "hoped" to make it public "next week." The answer differed slightly from what he told House lawmakers on Tuesday, that he intended to put out the report "within a week."

He said Justice Department lawyers and members of Mueller's team, who are reviewing the report for sensitive information to black out before release, would not remove information that would harm the "reputational interests" of Trump. Barr also said that he had not overruled Mueller's team on any proposed redactions from the report, and had not discussed with the White House what he was blacking out.

Democrats in the House have slammed Barr for what they view as his refusal to share the investigation's underlying evidence and material he may redact from the report. But Barr told senators Wednesday that he would be willing to re-evaluate that decision to try to accommodate lawmakers' concerns.

"I intend to take up with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, the chairmen and ranking members of each, what other areas they feel they have a need to have access to the information and see if I can work to accommodate that," he said.

Democratic lawmakers argue that they need such material so they can fully understand the implications of Mueller's findings and judge whether Barr had fairly represented what was found. In the House, they have already approved a subpoena to issue to try to compel the release of this kind of information.

Barr again declined to say whether he had briefed the White House on the fuller Mueller report, even though Justice Department officials had previously said it had not been shown to the White House.

His refusal to say one way or the other raised the possibility that since then, the Justice Department may have briefed Trump or his inner circle about its contents.

"I'm landing the plane right now," Barr said under Democratic questioning. "I have been willing to discuss my letter and the process going forward. The report is going to be out next week and I'm not just going into the details of the process."

Information for this article was contributed by Charlie Savage, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner of The New York Times; by John Wagner, Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian of The Washington Post; and by Eric Tucker, Mary Clare Jalonick, Chad Day, Michael Balsamo, Jonathan Lemire, Laurie Kellman and Matthew Daly of The Associated Press.

A Section on 04/11/2019

Print Headline: Barr set to probe '16 race 'spying'

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Comments

  • RBear
    April 11, 2019 at 6:19 a.m.

    Of course Barr is going to look into the surveillance of the Trump campaign. Trump would fire him if he didn't. Trump was looking for an AG who a) would not charge the president with obstruction of justice (summer 2018 memo) and b) would investigate the "spying" (Trump's constant harassment on the matter). Barr filled both those requirements.
    ...
    With regards to release of the report, Barr continues to edit ... er, redact the report which I'm sure is being done to support his premature conclusion about obstruction.

  • BoudinMan
    April 11, 2019 at 7:31 a.m.

    Another useful tool for Herr Drumpf.

  • 3WorldState1
    April 11, 2019 at 7:37 a.m.

    This country is off the rails.
    Just think. Under what circumstance would the Trumpsters demand a check or impeachment on trump? Any other president would have been long gone by now.
    Murder? Prob not. Molesting a child on camera? Maybe. Serious hearings first though.

  • limb
    April 11, 2019 at 8:32 a.m.

    The investigation probe has already been through hearings.

  • hah406
    April 11, 2019 at 8:45 a.m.

    Skeptic, go ahead and bring it. Investigate whatever the hell you want to, because Barr isn't going to find anything corrupt within the Obama administration in regards to Trump, regardless of how badly you racists want it to happen. The fact is that you are supporting a racist, lying, ignorant sexual abuser as POTUS. 9000 lies to the public and counting. Barr needs to release the full, un-redacted report to the public and let us see the full truth about our Russian-supported president.

  • 3WorldState1
    April 11, 2019 at 9:07 a.m.

    Of course skeptic has no idea what he is talking about. Trey Gowdy (that liberal rhino) investigated the FISA warrants and the “oranges” of this counterintelligence. AND FOUND NOTHING!!! it’s already been invested by the Republicans.
    Trump is a Traitor and Barr is his stooge. Terrible time for America.

  • Wowy
    April 11, 2019 at 9:09 a.m.

    ... d r i p , d r i p , d r i p , s q u i r t . . . haha
    ... d r i p , d r i p , d r i p , s q u i r t . . . Hahaha

  • mrcharles
    April 11, 2019 at 9:09 a.m.

    What good is a puppet unless they be a puppet [ see putin and DT's relationship] .

    I suggest our law enforcement and intelligence community , being from a not so innocent nation, confess to the Lord and Savior [ franklin graham's designation of the DT] of their transgressions, whether real or imagernary, whether by thought [ thought crimes are a big concern to the right] or word spoken.

    Please ignore the kind words that putin and DT say about each other, their types do have their heroes and are not afraid when they have the power they have to worship those who see eye to eye with basic tenants of authoritarian ideas.

    I suggest the reasonable people in america write some beautiful letters to Herr DT. That seems to gain you favor, whether jew or gentile, white serial killer [ n. korea] or asian serial killer [putin].

  • PopMom
    April 11, 2019 at 9:26 a.m.

    Our feds don't really "spy"; they investigate. O.K. maybe J. Edgar Hoover spied on some of his enemies. Barr is just trying to feed everybody the Trump idea that it doesn't matter what he did wrong--the feds should not have been investigating him. Hillary and company also act like cheating on the debates was not wrong because Wiki/Russia should not have hacked the DNC computer. Wrong is wrong. Now, let's see the report and let's see what they are hiding. Did you notice that Barr had a redaction category for loss of reputation to parties? LOL. This is the category for hiding everything that they did wrong. Let's see the report. Also, I doubt Assange will say anything about the hack, but one never knows.

  • Skeptic1
    April 11, 2019 at 9:26 a.m.

    hah406...really? The fake dossier doesn't exist, FBI officials didn't lie to obtain FISA warrants to spy on American citizens, Hillary didn't use a private server in her basement for classified emails, Hillary didn't Bleach Bit her emails, Hillary didn't have staff smash her Black Berries and destroy their Sim cards, and Strzok and Paige didn't conspire to bring down a president with their "insurance policy?" Uh-huh...and the sky is pink.

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