FBI Director Chris Wray said Tuesday that he does not consider court-approved FBI surveillance to be “spying” and said he has no evidence the FBI illegally monitored President Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election.
His comments at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing broke from Attorney General William Barr, who said last month that he believed the Trump campaign had been spied on during an investigation into potential collusion with Russia. Trump seized on that comment as part of his allegation that the investigation was tainted by law enforcement bias.
Asked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, if he would say the FBI is “spying” when it investigates suspected terrorists and mobsters, Wray replied, “Well, that’s not the term I would use.”
He added: “I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes. And to me, the key question is making sure that’s done by the book, consistent with our lawful authorities. That’s the key question. Different people use different colloquial phrases.”
Wray declined to discuss in detail the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign because of an ongoing Justice Department inspector general investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. Barr has said he expects the watchdog report to be done in May or June,
But asked whether he was aware of evidence that the FBI had illegally spied on the Trump campaign, Wray said, “I don’t think I personally have any evidence of that sort.”
Barr is investigating whether there was a proper basis for the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“We’re working to help him get that understanding,” Wray said. “I think that’s part of his job and part of mine.”