Congressional Democrats are furiously pushing back against Attorney General William Barr’s casual assertion that Donald Trump’s campaign was spied on in 2016, keenly aware that the narrative has profound negative political implications for their party.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr said during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Wednesday when asked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) why he was investigating the FBI’s counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign.
Incredulous, Shaheen asked Barr a follow-up question: “You’re not suggesting though that spying occurred?” she pressed.
“I think spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur,” Barr replied matter-of-factly.
Democrats are now accusing the attorney general of carrying water for President Trump.
Following his testimony, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr was “going off the rails.”
“He is the attorney general of the United States, not the attorney general of Donald Trump,” she said.
“These comments directly contradict what DOJ previously told us,” tweeted House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler. “I’ve asked DOJ to brief us immediately.”
“The top law enforcement officer of the country should not casually suggest that those under his purview engaged in ‘spying’ on a political campaign,” said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif). “This type of partisan talking point may please Donald Trump, who rails against a ‘deep state coup,’ but it also strikes another destructive blow to our democratic institutions,” he added.
Top Senate Democrats are demanding that Barr walk back his assertion that the Trump campaign was spied on by the FBI.