ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Wednesday that DOJ staff is 'helping' him review activities during the summer of 2016 after Republican Sen.
Chuck Grassley asked if the DOJ was looking into possible spying by the FBI or other agencies on the Trump campaign.
Under pressure from Democrats, Barr on Wednesday defended his decision to clear President Donald Trump of criminal obstruction of justice by attempting to impede Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia inquiry and criticized Mueller for not reaching a conclusion of his own on the issue.
Committee Republicans did not focus on Trump's conduct but rather on what they saw as the FBI's improper surveillance during the election of Trump aides they suspected of being Russian agents, as well as on the Kremlin's election meddling.
To that end, Barr defended his accusation in a previous congressional hearing this month that American intelligence agencies engaged in "spying" on Trump campaign figures amid worries over their contacts with Russia.
He said "spying" is "a good English word" without a pejorative meaning and that he would not back off his language, which echoed Trump's complaints that the Justice Department had engaged in wrongdoing toward his campaign.
At the outset of the hearing, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said the report showed that Congress should focus on protecting the coming 2020 election, in which Trump is seeking re-election, from foreign interference after Russian meddling in the 2016 race.
"My takeaway from this report is we've got a lot to do to defend democracy against Russians and other bad actors," Graham said.
A congressional subpoena deadline for Barr's department to hand over an unredacted copy of Mueller's report expired on Wednesday morning.
The House Judiciary Committee sought the full report and underlying evidence.