Attorney General William Barr said Friday that the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign “crossed” a “serious red line” and should be “carefully looked at.”
“The use of foreign intelligence capabilities and counterintelligence capabilities against an American political campaign to me is unprecedented and it’s a serious red line that’s been crossed,” Barr said in an interview with CBS.
The attorney general is currently investigating the origins of the probe to determine whether the U.S. intelligence community’s surveillance of the Trump campaign was warranted. He has expressed skepticism about the explanations for some of the investigative actions taken.
During testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee last month, Barr stated that “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign, angering Democratic lawmakers.
“I guess it’s become a dirty word somehow,” Barr told CBS. “I think there is nothing wrong with spying. The question is always whether it is authorized by law.”
“There were counterintelligence activities undertaken against the Trump campaign, And I’m not saying there was not a basis for it, that it was legitimate, but I want to see what that basis was and make sure it was legitimate,” he added.
The New York Times reported that the FBI sent an undercover agent posing as a research assistant to ask former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos whether the campaign was working with Russia. Papadopoulos was told by a Maltese professor in early 2016 that Russia had damaging information on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, but said he told the undercover agent he had “nothing to do with Russia.”
“Republics have fallen because of Praetorian Guard mentality where government officials get very arrogant, they identify the national interest with their own political preferences, and they feel that anyone who has a different opinion, you know, is somehow an enemy of the state,” Barr remarked. “That can easily translate into essentially supervening the will of the majority and getting your own way as a government official.”
FBI director Chris Wray said earlier this month that he had seen no evidence that the FBI illegally spied on the Trump campaign.