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A conservative commentator mischaracterized the remarks of Bill Barr, who served as attorney general under former President Donald Trump.
Barr did not call Trump a spy.
Conservative talk show host Mark Kaye claimed that Bill Barr, who served as attorney general under Donald Trump, called the former president a spy.
"So, Attorney General Bill Barr says Donald Trump is a spy. Donald Trump is a spy," Kaye said in a TikTok video.
As Kaye spoke, the words "Donald Trump is a spy" appeared on the screen.
The video included a clip of Barr speaking on Fox News about the June 9 federal indictment against Trump over handling of classified documents.
TikTok identified the video as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact’s partnership with TikTok.)
Kaye, who is based at a Jacksonville, Florida, radio station and hosts a TV show on Newsmax, mischaracterized Barr’s remarks. When we contacted him for evidence to back his claim, Kaye cited Barr’s comments during the Fox News interview.
But Barr did not accuse Trump of being a spy. He spoke about how federal prosecutors charged Trump under the federal Espionage Act in connection with federal documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago, his home and resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
However, not all crimes covered by the Espionage Act involve espionage, and the ones Trump was charged under do not involve what people would think of as "spying."
The Barr footage in the TikTok video was excerpted from a June 11 interview by "Fox News Sunday" host Shannon Bream:
Bream: "What about this chief argument that comes up from the president’s allies and his legal team that this should have been handled under the Presidential Records Act, not this Espionage Act charge and other federal statutes that were used here."
Barr: "Well, it started out under the Presidential Records Act and the (National) Archives trying to retrieve documents that Trump had no right to have, but it quickly became clear that what the government was really worried about were these classified and very sensitive documents. I was shocked by the degree of sensitivity of these documents and how many there were, frankly.
"And so, the government’s agenda was to get those — protect those documents and get them out. And I think it was perfectly appropriate to do that. It was the right thing to do, and I think the counts under the Espionage Act, that he willfully retained those documents, are solid counts."
Barr continued, "Now, I do think we have to wait and see what the defense says, and what proves to be true. But I do think that … if even half of it is true, then he’s toast. I mean, it’s a pretty — it’s a very detailed indictment, and it’s very, very damning."
Barr did not use the word spy, or make any other references to the Espionage Act, in the 9½-minute interview.
The 37-count federal indictment against Trump accused him of the "willful retention of national defense information," relating to Trump’s unauthorized possession and storage of federal documents, some of which were classified.
Kaye claimed that Barr said Trump is a spy. Barr didn’t say that. We rate Kaye’s claim False.
Fox News, "Bill Barr says Trump's indictment is 'very damning' if 'even half of it is true," June 11, 2023
PolitiFact, "Why Espionage Act charges don't mean prosecutors are accusing Donald Trump of spying," June 12, 2023
Email, Mark Kaye, June 19, 2023
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