Former FBI Director James Comey pushed back Wednesday against Attorney General William P. Barr’s allegations the FBI spied on President Trump’s 2016 campaign, saying he has “no idea what he’s talking about.”
“The FBI doesn’t spy, the FBI investigates,” Mr. Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump in 2017, told “CBS This Morning.” “We investigated a very serious allegation that Americans might be hooked up with the Russian effort to attack our democracy.
“Republicans need to breathe into a paper bag,” he said. “If we had confronted the same facts with a different candidate — say, a Democrat candidate — where one of their advisers was talking to a foreign adversary’s representative about that adversary’s interference in our election, they would be screaming for the FBI to investigate, and that’s all we did.”
During a congressional hearing last month, Mr. Barr said “I think spying did occur” on Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign as part of the Russia investigation.
Mr. Barr last week told Congress he was using the term “spy” colloquially and meant to convey that the Justice Department under President Obama was surveilling Trump campaign figures. Mr. Barr said he’s reviewing the spying activities to determine whether they were proper.
The FBI under Mr. Obama did obtain a warrant to surveil Trump campaign figure Carter Page using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The FBI also deployed informants into the Trump campaign to try to probe suspicions the campaign was coordinating with Russian operatives, according to multiple reports. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation undercut those suspicions, saying it did not find a conspiracy between the campaign and Russia.
FBI Director Christopher Wray distanced himself from Mr. Barr’s use of the word “spying,” saying its “not the term” he would use and he did not “personally have any evidence” of illegal surveillance.
Mr. Barr said Mr. Wray is cooperating in the attorney general’s review of the FBI’s behavior.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this story.
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