FBI Director contests Attorney General's claim intelligence agencies spied on Trump campaign

Former FBI Director James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey

Williams, who served as a deputy assistant attorney general under President Barack Obama's administration, appeared on CNN on Tuesday to respond to comments by Wray distancing himself from Attorney General William Barr's use of the term "spying" to characterize the investigation into Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Wray said he and his staff are working to help Barr understand the circumstances surrounding the FBI's decision to open a counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into whether anyone on the Trump campaign was conspiring with Russian Federation to interfere in the election.

"Well, that's not the term I would use", Wray said during a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, when he was questioned about Barr's use of the word "spying".

"Lots of people have different colloquial phrases", Wray said.

Shaheen said she was "very concerned" about Barr's use of the term. Barr has not said such surveillance was necessarily improper, but Trump nonetheless seized on those comments to suggest his campaign was spied on in an illegal and unprecedented act. That's the key question.

In March 2018, amid calls by Republican lawmakers for a second special counsel to investigate how the Russian Federation investigation began, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions revealed that he had designated a sitting United States attorney to look into allegations that the FBI abused its powers in surveilling former Trump foreign policy aide Carter Page, among other issues.

He said he was helping Barr with Barr's personal review of the "circumstances at the Department and the FBI relating to how this investigation started".

Barr didn't specify what he meant when he said he believed there had been spying on the Trump campaign, though he also said that he did not mean the word in a negative way. "I think "spying" is a good English word that in fact doesn't have synonyms because it is the broadest word incorporating really all forms of covert intelligence collection". Republicans have accused former Federal Bureau of Investigation leaders of using flimsy or false claims to get court surveillance orders on former Trump adviser Carter Page in 2016 and 2017.

An FBI informant, Stefan Halper, also made contact during the campaign with Page and two other Trump aides, George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis.

In his book about his entanglement in the Russian Federation probe, Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump, Mr. Papadopoulos wrote that the woman, who identified herself as Azra Turk, asked him about his work with the Trump campaign.