Former FBI Director James Comey said he has “no idea what the heck” Attorney General William Barr meant when he said there was “spying” on the Trump campaign in 2016.
Comey made the comment at the Hewlett Foundation’s Verify Conference Thursday, according to the Daily Beast.
He reportedly added, “The only thing I can say generally is that I think his career has earned him (Barr) a presumption that he will be one of the rare Trump cabinet members who will stand up for truth and facts...language like this makes it harder, but I still think he’s entitled to that presumption.”
Comey echoed the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies Thursday, saying Russia intervened in the 2016 election to damage American democracy and bolster Trump, which Russian officials have denied, according to Bloomberg. The news outlet reported Comey said Thursday that Trump's “denial of a fundamental attack” on the U.S. and his silence is an invitation for it to happen again.
When Comey was asked what he would do differently in 2013, the year he was sworn in to what was slated to be a 10-year term, he joked, “Can I decline to accept the appointment as FBI director?”
Comey's statements come one day after Barr testified that he believes "spying did occur" on the Trump campaign in 2016, as he vowed to review the conduct of the FBI's original Russia probe -- and the focus of a related internal review shifted to the role of a key FBI informant.
"I think spying did occur," Barr said during the explosive hearing before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. "The question is whether it was adequately predicated. …Spying on a political campaign is a big deal."
Barr's comments followed a new report that the Justice Department’s internal watchdog is scrutinizing the role of an FBI informant who contacted members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, as part of a broader review of the early stages of the Russia investigation.
The New York Times reported that Justice Department Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz is looking into informant Stefan Halper’s work during the Russia probe, as well as his work with the FBI prior to the start of that probe.
During the 2016 campaign, Halper, an American professor who reportedly is deeply connected with British and American intelligence agencies, contacted several members of the Trump campaign, including former aide Carter Page.
Page also was the subject of several Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants during the campaign -- an issue at the heart of the IG's investigation. Republicans, including President Trump, have alleged misconduct in the bureau and the Justice Department’s handling of those FISA warrants.
Page was never charged with any wrongdoing.
Barr said a review of the separate DOJ IG investigation into potential FISA abuses by the FBI, which is expected to look at whether the bureau improperly presented misleading sources or withheld exculpatory information in its presentations to the FISA court, is likely to be completed by May or June.
Fox News’ Gregg Re, Brooke Singman and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.