Trump tweet throws House vote on government surveillance powers into doubt – CNN


But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that a vote on FISA would go forward Wednesday, despite the Republican opposition. “We will act upon it today one way or another,” she said.

Trump has railed on FISA for months as a result of the Russia probe and the FISA warrants obtained on a campaign adviser, though the expired authorities are unrelated to the FISA court itself. But the Republican reversal on the legislation to renew the FISA authorities was striking given that the bill was negotiated in March by some of Trump’s closest House allies as well as Attorney General William Barr. The legislation the House is considering is nearly the same as what was passed in March, with one amendment passed by the Senate providing additional protections and review in the FISA court, and the potential for another amendment the House would debate Wednesday limiting collection of internet search history.

“In moving forward today, it won’t be signed into law. The President has questions, the attorney general has questions,” McCarthy said. “Since the time we had passed the bill in the House, there has been more information coming forward with the FISA court being used in processes it shouldn’t have been.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told House Democrats on a conference call Wednesday morning that the party’sleadership wants the FISA bill to pass the House this week, and they’re still trying to determine the best way forward, according to Democratic aides.

The request to shelve the vote was the latest hurdle for legislation reauthorizing authorities from the 2001 Patriot Act that’s been squeezed both by FISA opponents who have pushed for more civil liberties protections and by the President and his allies furious over the role of the FISA court in the Russia investigation and the misconduct with warrants obtained on former Trump adviser Carter Page.

“I hope all Republican House Members vote NO on FISA until such time as our Country is able to determine how and why the greatest political, criminal, and subversive scandal in USA history took place!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday evening.

In another potential roadblock, the Justice Department said Wednesday that Barr would recommend a veto in light of the new amendments to the legislation that the attorney general had negotiated with the House.

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“We have proposed specific fixes to the most significant problems created by the changes the Senate made. Instead of addressing those issues, the House is now poised to further amend the legislation in a manner that will weaken national security tools while doing nothing to address the abuses identified by the DOJ Inspector General,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in a statement.

If Republicans defect from the bill due to Trump’s tweet, it’s likely to fail on the floor, as the legislation is opposed by both liberal Democrats and civil libertarian-leaning Republicans.

The FISA renewal had appeared to be on a glide path on Tuesday, as the House had teed up a vote on an additional amendment offered by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California and GOP Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio that would prevent the collection of internet search and browser history for US citizens and permanent residents under FISA.

But even that amendment hit choppy waters on Tuesday. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who had co-sponsored the Senate version of the amendment that was defeated by a single vote, announced he was opposed to the House’s narrower amendment after initially saying he backed it over concerns about legal interpretations of the new text.

If the vote occurs, the House would be voting for a second time to reauthorize the three FISA authorities that expired on March 15, the longest period the authorities have been lapsed. The vote, which is needed because the Senate amended the bill, would be the first the House takes up under newly approved rules that allow lawmakers to vote remotely by designating members to vote at their direction and on their behalf. House Republicans are suing to challenge the constitutionality of the voting rules change.

In March, 126 Republicans voted for the FISA legislation, including the House’s biggest critics of the FBI’s Russia investigation, Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Devin Nunes of California, who hashed out the deal with Barr and House Democrats in a rare showing of bipartisanship.

Jordan expressed his general support for the legislation at a House Rules Committee meeting Wednesday morning, but he also said he understood the President’s position — and suggested the bill could now fail in the House.

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“He is frustrated by this process,” Jordan said. Asked if Trump would veto the bill, Jordan said: “We’ve got to know if this is going to pass the House of Representatives today.”

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, the top Republican on the Rules Committee, said he was still waiting to hear more from the President. “Without presidential support, this is very unlikely to pass,” Cole said.

While the Senate didn’t adopt the amendment on internet searches, it did overwhelmingly approve an amendment from GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont to provide additional legal protections and review in the FISA court process.

As a result of that amendment, the House has to vote on reauthorizing the three surveillance authorities again after initially approving them in March. And if the House adopts the amendment from Lofgren and Davidson, the Senate will have to vote on the reauthorization bill again, too, with the House’s changes.

The twists and turns of the FISA legislation — and the lengthy expiration of the national security authorities — is a sign of the concerns within both parties over law enforcement surveillance authorities. It’s an issue that’s long cut across party lines, combining conservative civil libertarians with liberal Democrats who have pushed back on FISA authorities. Trump’s railing on FISA over the Page surveillance warrants have only fueled the concerns and difficulty in renewing the authorities.

Trump’s tweets raise the prospect that he could veto the bill if it heads to his desk. While Barr signed off on the House deal, the Justice Department criticized the Senate’s amendment, saying it “would unacceptably degrade our ability to conduct surveillance of terrorists, spies and other national security threats.”

Two of four FISA warrants against Carter Page declared invalid

Congress had initially hoped to quickly approve a renewal of the three FISA authorities in March, before they expired. They include reauthorization of FISA’s Section 215, which allows law enforcement to collect “tangible things” in national security investigations, a roving wiretaps provision and a “lone wolf” provision. The Democrats and Republicans who feuded over the Russia investigation and FISA warrants struck a deal with Barr to reauthorize the authorities, along with adding some additional civil liberties protections and changes to the FISA court process demanded by Trump’s allies who say the FBI was targeting Trump’s campaign.

But after the House passed the deal without amendments, the Senate’s Republican FISA opponents balked at quick passage, arguing the reforms were insufficient and demanding amendment votes. The Senate passed a short-term extension that the House did not take up while out of Washington as a result of the pandemic, and the Senate then voted to approve the authorities in May, while approving the amendment from Lee and Leahy.

The new amendment from Lofgren and Davidson on internet search history has some differences compared to the Senate version, offered by Wyden and Montana GOP Sen. Steve Daines, which failed to reach 60 votes, 59-37. The House’s amendment blocks the collection of internet search and browser history specifically for US citizens and permanent residents, a distinction the Senate’s version did not contain.

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Congressional aides say the new provision is likely to attract even more support in both chambers — it’s backed by both Lofgren and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, also a California Democrat — although civil liberties advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union expressed concerns the amendment had been watered down.

Schiff said in a statement that he had worked with Lofgren to modify the amendment from Wyden and Daines and the House measure would “prevent use of FISA’s business records provision to seek to obtain a US person’s internet browsing and search history information.”

Wyden initially expressed support for Lofgren’s amendment. But Tuesday evening, Wyden said he was opposed and accused Schiff of undermining the Senate proposal with his statement offering a narrower interpretation of the measure’s limitation on collection of internet search data.

Wyden, who is typically aligned with Lofgren, initially expressed support for Lofgren’s amendment on Tuesday. But Tuesday evening he said he was opposed and accused Schiff of undermining the Senate proposal.

“It is now clear that there is no agreement with the House Intelligence Committee to enact true protections for Americans’ rights against dragnet collection of online activity, which is why I must oppose this amendment, along with the underlying bill, and urge the House to vote on the original Wyden-Daines amendment,” Wyden said.

This story has been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.



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