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Barr Speaks Out on Treason, Spying, Mueller

He says Obama-era officials didn't commit treason 'as a legal matter'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2019 5:08 AM CDT

(Newser) – Attorney General William Barr doesn't believe that Obama-era officials committed treason—at least not technically. In an CBS interview due to air in full Friday, Barr said "not as a legal matter, no" when asked if treason had been committed. But he added that he had concerns about how the Russia investigation was handled. "Sometimes people can convince themselves that what they're doing is in the higher interest and better good," he told CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford. "They don't realize that what they're doing is really antithetical to the democratic system that we have."

Philip Allen Lacovara, who served as counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor, tells CNN that the remarks were an "astonishing" way for an attorney general to talk about people who were investigating a "documented and undeniable" Russian attempt to influence the election. During the CBS interview, Barr also addressed criticism he has received for saying federal investigators "spied on" the Trump campaign. He said spying is not a "dirty word." "I think there is nothing wrong with spying," he said, as long as it "is authorized by law and properly predicated." Barr went on to argue that Robert Mueller could have reached a decision on whether President Trump obstructed justice, though the special counsel has said he couldn't do so because of Justice Department policy against charging a sitting president. (Trump has granted Barr sweeping powers to use in his investigation of the Russia investigation.)

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