“I am going to be reviewing both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016. I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. "I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur. The question was whether it was adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting it wasn't predicated. I need to explore that.”
NBC News’ Chuck Todd accused the attorney general of giving credence to a “conspiracy theory.”
“Using the word spying,” the “Meet the Press” moderator said, “plays into the president’s language and argument that the Russia investigation to him is just a witch hunt, and every time they’ve brought up this allegation, there has been zero factual basis for it. Every effort to perpetrate the spying conspiracy theory has been debunked.”
Todd continued, “It doesn’t matter what the truth is, does it? I mean, I hate to say this now, but that’s the whole point. It feels like that basically the attorney general gaslit the country.”
MSNBC legal analyst Nick Akerman claimed that Barr’s remarks were “all part of the White House’s cover-up” of the Mueller probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. He also accused the attorney general of telling the White House what’s in the special counsel’s report.
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper classified Barr’s use of the term “spying” as “uncharacteristically broad,” coming from someone who is usually “lawyerly and precise.” Cooper insisted that Barr had “fanned the flames” for President Trump and the GOP. His colleague Chris Cuomo said the spying terminology was “an insult to the men and women” who work for Barr and a “defamatory way to refer to surveillance.”
CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin added that Barr’s remarks were ”loaded” and “false” and declared that the “paranoid lunacy of the right wing” has now taken over the Department of Justice.
Bloomberg opinion writer Tim O’Brien compared Barr to Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel, Roy Cohn, during the “Red Scare” of the 1950s, saying the current attorney general was “trying” to act like “the ruthless and sleazy attack dog who taught Trump how to weaponize the legal system.”
Washington Post columnist and self-described “conservative blogger” Jennifer Rubin, who referred to Barr as a “Trump toady,” called on lawmakers to push for the attorney general’s resignation.