FBI Director Chris Wray said Tuesday he had no evidence “personally” that the FBI illegally spied on the Trump campaign in 2016, undercutting a favorite but unfounded claim made by the President and his allies.
Wray, in testimony to a Senate appropriations subcommittee, also distanced himself from use of the word “spying” — a term Attorney General Bill Barr invoked — to describe the surveillance actions taken by the bureau in the lead-up to the election.
“That’s not the term I would use,” Wray said, while adding “different people use different colloquial phrases.”
The comment came during questioning from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who also asked Wray if he had evidence of illegal surveillance.
“I don’t think I personally have any evidence of that sort,” Wray said.
Elsewhere, Wray played along with the concerns raised by Republicans that the Russia probe — which culminated in the report submitted by special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this spring — was inappropriately launched.
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.”
He also tread carefully around the assessment made by both Mueller and the broader intelligence community — which released its own preliminary summary of Russian election meddling in early 2017 — that the effort was geared at boosting Trump and harming former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He was asked whether Russians intended to boost Trump again in 2020.
“The special counsel’s report speaks for itself in terms of what it found and we continue to assess that the Russians are focused on sowing divisiveness and discord in this country, and pitting us against each other, and that part I think we see alive and well,” Wray said.