No holds Barr-ed: Attorney General returns fire with vow to investigate ‘spying’

by WorldTribune Staff, May 2, 2019

Attorney General William Barr revealed Wednesday that the Justice Department is reviewing the possibility that Russians supplied disinformation to the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential election season.

He also told a contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the expanded scope of the review included senior anti-Trump FBI officials making critical decisions on the investigations of Hillary Clinton and her Republican opponent, Donald Trump.

Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1. / C-SPAN

Sparks flew at the public airing of the term “spying” as applied to Democrat Party officials.

During testimony before the House Appropriations Committee last month, said “spying did occur” against the Trump campaign in 2016 amid the FBI’s Russia investigation.

In Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, criticized the attorney general for his use of the term “spying.” Whitehouse suggested the term was not accurate because the activities of the FBI were “authorized.”

“I’m not going to abjure the use of the word ‘spying,’ ” Barr said. “My first job was in CIA. I don’t think the word ‘spying’ has any pejorative connotation at all.”

Barr continued, “I think spying is a good English word that, in fact, doesn’t have synonyms because it is the broadest word incorporating really all forms of covert intelligence collection, so I’m not going to back off the word ‘spying.’ ”

To further defend his use of the word, Barr pointed out that many members of the media also used the term before they decided to attack him for doing the same.

“Frankly, we went back and looked at press usage and up until all the faux outrage a couple of weeks ago, it’s commonly used in the press to refer to authorized activities,” Barr said.

“It’s not commonly used by the Department,” Whitehouse responded.

Barr shot back, “It’s commonly used by me.”

One key question is how much the FBI relied on the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.

Barr was asked about the origins of the dossier during an exchange with Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

“Can we state with confidence that the Steele dossier was not part of the Russian disinformation campaign?” asked Cornyn, a Republican.

Barr replied: “No, I can’t state that with confidence and that is one of the areas that I’m reviewing. I’m concerned about it, and I don’t think it’s entirely speculative.”

Barr also said that Trump probably should have been briefed on Russian meddling in the election, including efforts to reach out to his campaign.

“I can’t fathom why it did not happen,” he said. “If you are concerned about interference in the election and you have substantial people involved in the campaign who are former U.S. attorneys, you had three former U.S. attorneys there in the campaign. I don’t know why the bureau would not have gone and given a defensive briefing.”

Barr said he supported a change in legislation to mandate that presidential nominees be given those kinds of briefings.

“The danger from countries like China, Russia and so forth is far more insidious than it has been in the past because of nontraditional collectors that they have operating in the United States, and I think most people are unaware of how pervasive it is and what the risk level is,” he said. “I think it actually should go far beyond even campaigns where people involved in government have to be educated on this.”


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