Sen. Jeanne Shaheen asked FBI Director Christopher Wray during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday about the president's assertion that his 2016 presidential campaign was "spied" on by the FBI. Wray said that he wouldn't use the word "spying" to describe the surveillance work of the FBI, breaking from Attorney General William Barr who said "spying did occur," but said that he had "limited information" and would defer to the DOJ's inspector general, who is currently investigating that question.
"Well, it's not the term I would use. Lots of people have different colloquial phrases," Wray said. "I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance."
"I want to be careful about how I answer that question here because there is an ongoing inspector general investigation. I have my own thoughts based on the limited information I have seen so far but I don't think it would be right or appropriate for me to share those at this stage," Wray said.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you very much, Director Wray, for being here this morning. I'd like to follow up on Senator Moran's question about the hearing we had with Attorney General Barr because I was very concerned by his use of the word spying, which I think is a very loaded word. It conjures a criminal connotation, and I want to ask you--and I'd appreciate a yes or no answer if possible--when FBI agents conduct investigations against alleged mobsters, suspected terrorists, other criminals, do you believe that they're engaging in spying when they're following FBI investigative policies and procedures?
FBI DIRECTOR CHRISTOPHER WRAY: Well, that's not the term I would use.
SHAHEEN: Thank you. So--so I would--I would say that's a no to that question.
WRAY: Well, I mean, look, there are lots of peoples have different colloquial phrases. I believe that the FBI is engaged in investigative activity, and part of investigative activity includes surveillance activity of different shapes and sizes. And to me the key question is making sure that it's done by the book consistent with our lawful authorities. That is the key question, different people use different colloquial phrases.
SHAHEEN: And as part of the investigative process do FBI agents secure warrants for relevant evidence?
WRAY: I'm sorry. Could you repeat the question?
SHAHEEN: Yes. As part of an investigative process like the investigative process into the 2016 presidential campaign do FBI agents secure warrants for relevant evidence?
WRAY: Certainly securing warrants is a very important step that we take every day in the FBI and lots and lots of investigations.
SHAHEEN: So I would take that as a yes. Did FBI agents get warrants for information as part of their countersurveillance investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election?
WRAY: Well, I want to be a little bit careful about what I can discuss here but I think it has been publicly disclosed there were a number of relevant warrants that were secured in the course of that investigation.
SHAHEEN: Thank you. And do you believe Director Wray that the FBI and its agents spied into the 2016 presidential campaign operation?
WRAY: Well, again I want to be careful about how I answer that question here because there is an ongoing inspector general investigation. I have my own thoughts based on the limited information I have seen so far but I don't think it would be right or appropriate for me to share those at this stage because I really do think it's important for everybody to respect the independent inspector general's investigation which I think this question start--this line of questioning starts to implicate and I think it's very important for everybody to be able to have full confidence in his review.
SHAHEEN: And at this time do you have any evidence that any illegal surveillance into the campaigns or individuals associated with the campaigns by the FBI occurred?
WRAY: I don't think I personally have any evidence of that sort.
SHAHEEN: Thank you. Now again the attorney general stated that he was assembling a team to look into the situation of illegal surveillance into the Trump presidential campaign and stated that he expected to work closely with you on this. Has the attorney general asked you to look into or review the actions undertaken by the FBI regarding the counterintelligence investigation?
WRAY: Well, as I said he is trying to get a better understanding of the circumstances at the department and the FBI surrounding the initiation of this particular investigation. He and I have been in fairly close contact about it and we're trying to work together to help him get the understanding that he needs on that subject. I think that's appropriate.