Attorney General William Barr says his review of the origins of the Russia investigation is focused on U.S. intelligence-gathering before the FBI opened its formal inquiry in July 2016 and could lead to rule changes for counterintelligence investigations of political campaigns, reports the Wall Street Journal.
“Government power was used to spy on American citizens,” Barr told the Journal in his first interview since taking office in February. “I can’t imagine any world where we wouldn’t take a look and make sure that was done properly.”
He added: “Just like we need to ensure that foreign actors don’t influence the outcome of our elections, we need to ensure that the government doesn’t use its powers to put a thumb on the scale.”
Barr’s first few months on the job have been dominated by controversy surrounding his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and its aftermath.
Barr began his own investigation into the early stages of the Russia probe, a move Democrats and some former law-enforcement officials said was a politically motivated attempt to appease Trump and his Republican allies. Barr denied that criticism.
This week, Barr spoke on board a government plane en route to El Salvador, where he is seeking ways to step up international cooperation against the street gang MS-13. Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray have said in recent weeks they believed the investigation opened in July 2016 was appropriate or they had seen no evidence that any illegal activity had taken place.
In a tweet Friday, President Trump said his presidential campaign “was conclusively spied on.” He added: “TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!”