FBI chief Wray says spying didn't occur on Trump campaign, refuting AG Barr

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By Adam Edelman  with NBC News Politics
Image: FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies to the Senate Intelligence C
FBI Director Christopher Wray testifies to the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about "worldwide threats" on Capitol Hill on Jan. 29, 2019.   -   Copyright  Joshua Roberts Reuters file

FBI Director Chris Wray said Tuesday that he would not describe the federal government's surveillance, such as that conducted on President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, as "spying," as Attorney General William Barr has.

During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Wray was asked by committee member Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about Barr's statement last month that "spying did occur" on the Trump campaign.

"I was very concerned by his use of the word spying, which I think is a loaded word," Shaheen said. "When FBI agents conduct investigations against alleged mobsters, suspected terrorists, other criminals, do you believe they're engaging in spying when they're following FBI investigative policies and procedures?"

"That's not the term I would use," Wray replied. "So I would say that's a no to that question."

Asked if he had "any evidence that any illegal surveillance" into the Trump 2016 campaign occurred, Wray said he did not.

"I don't think I personally have any evidence of that sort," Wray said.

At another point, Wray was asked if he felt the federal government "spied into the 2016 presidential election," and replied that he didn't "think it would be right or appropriate" to share his thoughts and that he wanted to respect anongoing investigation by the Department of Justice inspector general into aspects of the Russia inquiry.

Wray's answers on Tuesday would appear to refute Barr's testimony from last month, when he told Shaheen during a committee hearing that felt "spying did occur" by the U.S. government on Trump's 2016 campaign.

Barr had also said he was was "reviewing the conduct" of the FBI's Russia probe during the summer of 2016, and that the Department of Justice inspector general would release a report on the agency's use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process and other matters in the Russia case in May or June.