By Agence France-Presse
The US attorney general told Congress Wednesday he believes the FBI spied on President Donald Trump’s election campaign and said he is opening an investigation into whether it was justified.
Amid fresh charges by Trump that he was the target of an “attempted coup,” Bill Barr told lawmakers the FBI may have gone too far in opening a counterintelligence probe into Trump’s 2016 operation.
“Spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“I think spying did occur. The question is, was it was adequately predicated? I’m not saying it wasn’t,” he said.
Barr confirmed he was opening a review into whether the investigation, which eventually became Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s collusion and obstruction probe, was justified.
“This is not launching an investigation of the FBI,” he insisted while adding: “I think there was probably a failure among a group of leaders at the upper echelon” of the FBI.
“I have an obligation to make sure that government power is not abused.”
Trump has maintained since the Mueller probe was launched in May 2017 that he was the target of an “illegal witch hunt.”
He chose Barr in December to lead the Justice Department months after Barr submitted an unsolicited legal memorandum to the White House criticizing the basis for Mueller’s investigation.
Based on Barr’s March 24 summary of Mueller’s still-secret final report, which said there was insufficient evidence that the president obstructed justice, Trump declared he was “completely exonerated.”
Speaking to journalists Wednesday, Trump again said the investigation was politically driven.
“This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president and we beat them,” he said.
“What they did was treason, what they did was terrible, what they did was against our constitution.”
Asked if he believed the Mueller probe was a witch hunt, Barr would only say: “It really depends where you are sitting. It is what it is.”