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News Wrap: Barr believes spying on Trump campaign ‘did occur’

In our news wrap Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr revealed during congressional testimony that he believes U.S. intelligence agencies spied on President Trump’s 2016 campaign. He also said he’s reviewing how the counterintelligence investigation into Russian collusion began. Meanwhile, the president again insisted that he can’t release his tax returns, saying he is under audit by the IRS.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Attorney General William Barr said publicly today that he believes U.S. intelligence agencies spied on President Trump's 2016 campaign. He also said that he's ordered a new review of how the counterintelligence investigation into Russian collusion began.

    During his second day of congressional testimony, Barr told a Senate panel he wanted to make sure that, if surveillance did occur, it followed proper procedures.

  • William Barr:

    I think spying did occur. But the question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting it wasn't adequately predicated, but I need to explore that.

    I'm not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Barr acknowledged he didn't have any specific evidence of wrongdoing. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer later said that Barr needed to retract his statement about the spying or provide evidence to support it.

    And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Associated Press she doesn't trust Barr.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D- Calif.:

    I'm very concerned about the statements made by Attorney General Barr. I think that they undermine our Constitution. They undermine the role of the attorney general. He is not the attorney general of Donald Trump. He is the attorney general of the United States.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Barr's review is separate from an ongoing Justice Department inspector general inquiry into the FBI's handling of the Russia probe. Barr said that he expects those results in May or June.

    Earlier, as he left the White House, President Trump again insisted the Mueller investigation was politically motivated.

  • Donald Trump:

    It was an illegal investigation. It was started illegally. Everything about it was crooked — every single thing about it. There were dirty cops. These were bad people. This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted takedown of a president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Barr says that he plans to release a redacted version of Mueller's report to the public next week.

    President Trump insisted again today that he will not release his income tax returns anytime soon. Today was the deadline congressional Democrats had set for the IRS to turn over six years of Mr. Trump's returns. The president told reporters this morning that he would — quote — "love to release them," but won't while he's under audit by the IRS .

    The U.S. Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, has yet to respond to the request.

    In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will serve a record fifth term, after his rival's party conceded defeat. He ran a tight race against his centrist challenger, former military chief Benny Gantz. Netanyahu celebrated his victory with supporters today in Tel Aviv. He will now become Israel's longest-serving leader.

    We will have more on the Israeli election right after the news summary.

    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May was in Brussels today, lobbying for another extension on the U.K.'s departure date from the European Union. She told top E.U. officials that another delay would give her more time to secure a Brexit deal that could pass in Parliament. E.U. member states held an emergency session to vote on whether or not to grant a second extension. Without one, the U.K. is set to leave the bloc on this Friday without a deal.

    We will have more on the pivotal vote later in the program.

    New Zealand's Parliament has voted to ban most semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles. This comes less than a month after a gunman opened fire on two mosques in the city of Christchurch, killing 50 people and wounding dozens more.

    Today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern praised the nearly unanimous vote in Wellington.

  • Jacinda Ardern:

    I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could have been obtained legally in this country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The bill is expected to become law on Friday. After that, anyone with a military-style weapon could face up to five years in prison.

    The death toll from a cyclone in Southern Africa has now topped 1,000 people. The powerful storm ripped through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi last month. Crews are still searching for remains of the dead. A cholera outbreak among the cyclone's survivors in Mozambique threatens to increase the number of casualties even more.

    Back in this country, Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Claire Grady has resigned. That paves the way for President Trump's pick, Kevin McAleenan, who is currently the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to become the acting secretary of homeland security. But this leaves the acting deputy position unfilled, along with other key slots at the department.

    McAleenan's departure from Customs and Border Protection means it now won't have a commissioner. And since the acting head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ron Vitiello, is stepping down Friday, that agency will have a vacancy at the top as well. It was earlier announced that the head of the Secret Service is also leaving this week.

    President Trump left open the possibility today of sending additional U.S. troops to the southern border. He made the comment after listening to stories about migrant crossings at a Republican fund-raiser in San Antonio, Texas. Some 5,000 active-duty and National Guard troops are currently stationed at the border.

    And Wall Street managed a modest advance today. The Dow Jones industrial average gained six points to close at 26157. The Nasdaq rose 55 points, and the S&P 500 added 10.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu poised to win a historic fifth term; European Union leaders hold an emergency summit to vote on the U.K.'s request for a Brexit extension; the first image ever captured of a black hole; and much more.

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