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Attorney General Bill Barr told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday that he believes spying by law enforcement officials on the 2016 Trump campaign "did occur," before clarifying at the end of the hearing: "I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I am saying that I am concerned about it and I’m looking into it."

The exchange:

  • Barr: "For the same reason we're worried about foreign influence in elections, we want to make sure that — I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal. ... There were a lot of rules put in place to make sure that there's an adequate basis before our law enforcement agencies get involved in political surveillance. I'm not suggesting those rules were violated, but I think it's important to look at that."
  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.): "But you're not suggesting that spying occurred?"
  • Barr: "I don't ... well ... I guess you could — I think spying did occur. Yes, I think spying did occur. But the question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting that it wasn't adequately predicated. But I need to explore that."

When pressed by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) whether he has any evidence of wrongdoing by the FBI or Mueller in the Russia investigation, Barr said: "I have no specific evidence that I would cite right now. I do have questions about it." Barr said he plans on reviewing "both the genesis and conduct" of the Russia investigation.

Why it matters: Defenders of President Trump have long accused Obama-era intelligence officials of spying on the Trump campaign for political reasons, alleging that intelligence tools, like the FISA process, were abused. These claims have not been corroborated.

  • A redacted FISA warrant for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, was released by the Department of Justice last year.
  • The documents appeared to show that the FBI properly disclosed its sources of information and that it relied on more than just the controversial Steele dossier, contradicting claims of abuse by Republicans.

Go deeper: How FISA works

Go deeper

Updated 47 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hold steady at 65,000 per day — CDC declares racism "a serious public health threat" — WHO official: Brazil is dealing with "raging inferno" of a COVID outbreak
  2. Vaccines: America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall — Pfizer asks FDA to expand COVID vaccine authorization to adolescents — CDC says Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will drop 80% next week.
  3. Economy: Treasury says over 156 million stimulus payments sent out since March — More government spending expected as IMF projects 6% global GDP growth.
  4. Politics: Supreme Court ends California's coronavirus restrictions on home religious meetings
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Second senior Matt Gaetz aide resigns amid federal investigation

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) walking out of the Capitol in January 2021. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Devin Murphy, Rep. Matt Gaetz's legislative director, has stepped down amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations against the Florida Republican congressman, the New York Times first reported and Axios has confirmed.

The latest: "It's been real," Murphy wrote in an email, obtained by Axios, to Republican legislative directors on Saturday morning, with the subject line: "Well...bye."

Rep. Dan Crenshaw says he'll be blind for a month after eye surgery

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) in Washington, D.C., in December 2020. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said in a statement Saturday he will be blind for roughly a month after getting surgery to reattach the retina in left eye.

Why it matters: Crenshaw, who lost his right eye and sustained severe damage to his left eye during his third deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, said he will be "pretty much off the grid for the next few weeks."