President Donald Trump said Thursday that he 'absolutely' agrees with Attorney General William Barr's statement that he thought the U.S. government spied on Trump's 2016 presidential campaign — a remark that echoes Trump's past allegations.
"I think what he said was absolutely true, there was absolutely spying into my campaign," Trump said when asked if he was pleased with Barr's statement at a congressional hearing the day before. "I'll go a step further; in my opinion, it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying and something that should never be allowed to happen in our country again."
Barr defended his decision to order a review of the Trump-Russia probe's origins during a Senate hearing Wednesday, saying that he thinks government “spying" on Trump’s 2016 campaign "did occur," although he didn't elaborate.
“For the same reason, we’re worried about foreign influence in elections ... I think spying on a political campaign — it’s a big deal, it’s a big deal,” Barr said in response to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that handles Justice Department funding, who had asked why Barr is looking into the origins of the investigation.
When he was asked to clarify later in the hearing, Barr said, “I’m not saying if improper surveillance occurred," stating only that he was “concerned about it” and looking into the situation.
Trump alleged in March 2017, without providing evidence, that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower before his election win the previous November. In response, Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis roundly rejected Trump's accusation, calling it "unequivocally false."
Barr, in a letter to Congress last month, said special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence anyone associated with Trump's campaign "conspired or coordinated" with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mueller, however, reached no conclusion on whether the president had obstructed justice, Barr said, leading Trump to claim he had been exonerated.
During the Oval Office sit-down with South Korean President Moon Jae-In on Thursday, Trump said he was "not concerned" about Barr's promise not to redact anything that would damage the president's reputation when he releases Mueller's report to Congress.
"We never did anything wrong," Trump said.
Trump on Wednesday blasted the Russia probe as “an attempted coup” against his presidency — his sharpest comments to date since the probe ended. Trump said the probe was “started illegally” and that “every single thing about it” was “crooked.”
“There were dirty cops, these were bad people,” he said, listing former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok and ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
“And this was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president. And we beat them, we beat them,” Trump said.