Attorney General William Barr has enlisted the help of the CIA to investigate whether the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign was motivated by partisan bias, CNN reported Tuesday.
CIA director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and FBI director Chris Wray are all participating in the investigation, which Barr first announced publicly during a congressional hearing last month.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday evening that Barr has tapped Connecticut U.S. attorney John Durham to help examine the origins of the FBI counterintelligence investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election, which served as the pretext for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment.
The investigation was launched in response to long-held Republican concerns that the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign was politically motivated and relied on dubious opposition research. These concerns were in part fueled by the revelation that the FISA warrant obtained to surveil Trump campaign national-security adviser Carter Page was based on information provided in the unsubstantiated Steele dossier.
Barr drew the ire of top Democrats last month when he confirmed that he believed the FBI’s surveillance of Page and other campaign officials constituted “spying,” though he stopped short of asserting the surveillance activity was not properly predicated.
“I think spying did occur,” Barr said during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee. “But the question is whether it was adequately predicated and I am not suggesting that it wasn’t adequately predicated. . . . I am not suggesting those rules were violated, but I think it is important to look at that. And I am not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.”
Barr went on to defend his use of the term at a subsequent hearing, telling lawmakers that spying “is a good English word” that accurately captures the FBI’s behavior.