Former FBI Director James Comey joined liberal critics of Bill Barr over concerns the attorney general raised about possible improper surveillance of the 2016 Trump campaign.
When questioned about Barr's spying concerns, Comey said: "I have no idea what he’s talking about so it’s hard for me to comment."
However, Comey raised more than a few eyebrows among conservatives when he subsequently said he "never thought of" electronic surveillance as "spying."
Fox News' Brooke Singman explains:
Comey sought to draw a distinction between surveillance -- which was authorized against a Trump adviser -- and spying during a cybersecurity conference in California on Thursday, echoing Democratic lawmakers who have accused Barr of going too far in his Senate testimony this week.
Before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, Barr testified that he believes “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign, adding, “the question is whether it was adequately predicated.” Barr said he believed it was his “obligation” to review where there was any misconduct in the intelligence gathering during the origins of the Russia investigation.
But despite the backlash from Democrats over his use of the term, Barr's testimony appeared to refer to intelligence collection that already has been widely reported and confirmed.
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page are currently the subject of a Justice Department inspector general investigation looking at potential misconduct in the issuance of those warrants. That review also reportedly is scrutinizing the role of an FBI informant who had contacts with Trump advisers in the early stages of the Russia investigation.
Merriam-Webster defines 'spying' as: to watch secretly usually for hostile purposes.
Barr seemed to walk back his comments somewhat before the end of his congressional testimony, saying his intention is to "make sure there was no unauthorized surveillance."