Trump criticizes surveillance law his administration wants to extend, then reverses

Katrina Barker
January 12, 2018

But this morning's tweets from Donald Trump could scramble the politics of the issue. In fact, on Wednesday evening, the White House Office of the Press Secretary released a statement that "urges the House to... preserve the useful role FISA's Section 702 plays in protecting American lives". His amendment, the USA RIGHTS Act, would have replaced the text.

On the blinking lines: Republican lawmakers and top intelligence officials perplexed that Trump had appeared to contradict more than a week of public statements from the administration in support of the reauthorization, which allows the government to conduct warrantless spying on U.S. soil.

Before approving the extension, the House voted 233 to 183 to reject an amendment that would have overhauled the current program.

On Thursday, White House cyber coordinator Rob Joyce said there have "been no cases of 702 used improperly for political purposes".

Still, the bill was expected to pass the House of Representatives today with a combination of Democratic and Republican votes.

Over an hour and a half later after his first tweet on Thursday, the president sent a second tweet on the subject seeming to clarify that he supports FISA re-authorization, with potential privacy concerns addressed separately.

"We have a real opportunity to get this passed in the House tomorrow", said Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican who's leading the coalition of liberals and conservatives. The president, after issuing some confusing and contradictory tweets about the law, supports the House action, according to the White House. In a tweet Sen.

"FISA is something the President should have known about long before he turned on Fox this morning", Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted after Trump's post.

Update 8:30am CT, Jan. 11: Trump finished his thoughts on FISA. "By failing to close the backdoor search loophole in this bill, which exposes millions of innocent Americans to warrantless government surveillance, members of Congress have ceded incredible domestic spying powers to the executive branch", the organization said in a statement.

"Mr. President", Napolitano continued, looking straight into the camera to address Trump directly, "this is not the way to go".

The tweet from the president had House Republican leadership reconsidering its options Thursday morning, at one point including the possibility of pulling the legislation altogether. Rand Paul said Thursday, shortly before appearing to call for a filibuster through Twitter on the upcoming Senate vote.

"The administration has voiced support for reauthorization but I think the president indicated to me that he believes that any reauthorization should have significant reforms", Paul said. In an unusual alignment, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi opposed the Amash-Lofgren amendment, saying that it would weaken intelligence agencies' ability to stop terror plots in a timely fashion. "I understand its importance to the intelligence agencies", he said. "And we're supposed to make those decisions to keep our country safe". Proponents of renewal privately expressed frustration with the president, both his lack of discipline and his obvious ignorance of his own alleged policy preferences. And last month, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, warned that allowing the program to lapse would return the United States "to a pre-9/11 mindset in terms of how we conduct our intelligence sharing". They say the law has already thwarted several terrorist plots against the US, including a planned attack on the New York City subway system.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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