President Trump echoes AG William Barr’s campaign spying claim

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President Trump on Thursday endorsed Attorney General William Barr’s assertion on Wednesday that the counterintelligence investigation of possible links between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia amounted to spying.

“I think what he said was absolutely true,” Trump said in response to a reporter’s question on the matter during a White House meeting with visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “There was absolutely spying into my campaign.”

Trump took the Attorney General’s assertion a step further. “In my opinion it was illegal spying. There was spying in my campaign and his answer was very accurate.”

Attorney General Barr made his spying accusation during testimony Wednesday before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing about the beginnings of the Department of Justice probe of the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia that eventually led to the Special Counsel probe helmed by Robert Mueller.

“I think spying into a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr said in response to questions from the senate panel. “I’m not saying that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at that.”

Barr told committee members that he intends to set up a team to look into the investigation. He didn’t provide specifics as to how that team might go about its business, or what exactly it will be looking for.

Congressional Democrats sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office on Thursday demanding that he provide congress with the full 300 plus page Mueller report. The letter cited the Watergate and the Starr reports as prior examples of full special counsel reports that were provided to Congress in their entirety.  Barr has committed to providing a redacted version of the report to congress within a week or so, citing grand jury testimony, on-going investigations and privacy concerns for certain individuals as his reasons for blacking out certain sections.

Democratic leaders have strongly criticized Barr’s characterization of the counterintelligence investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign as “spying.”

“Attorney General Barr did exactly what President Trump wanted,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, during a Thursday senate floor session. “The Attorney General has dodged questions, peddled conspiracy theories and, like the President, lobbed baseless accusations.”

Schumer said Barr did not, for example, acknowledge during his testimony that all 17 intelligence agencies agreed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump. He also asked why Barr took only 48 hours to release his summary of the Mueller report, but has taken two weeks to release the report.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also took issue with Barr’s conduct vis-à-vis the Mueller report. “It’s dismaying and disappointing that the chief law enforcement officer in the country is going off the rails,” Pelosi said at a Democratic policy retreat in Virginia on Wednesday.

“He’s the Attorney General of the United States of America, not the Attorney General for Donald Trump,” said Pelosi.

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Max Pringle has been a public radio and print reporter for more than a decade. He’s covered national, state and local politics for Pacifica’s KPFA Radio and has been a contributor to public radio outlets Capital Public Radio, KQED and KALW. His work has also appeared in the East Bay Express, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Sacramento News and Review, Deutsche Welle, BBC Radio Ulster and Radio France International. He is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Max was bitten by the news bug while working on his high school newspaper and hasn’t recovered since. Max is pleased to be covering the state capital and privileged to provide a window on the state government.