Political News

Trump signals break with Barr over FISA reauthorization

Posted February 27, 2020 11:59 a.m. EST

— President Donald Trump weighed in early Thursday morning on the fraught effort to renew a set of expiring surveillance authorities, appearing to side with a group of conservative lawmakers whose ambitious plan for a near-term overhaul of the critical FBI tool is opposed by the attorney general and other Trump allies.

Just after 1 a.m. ET Thursday, Trump retweeted a message from Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan that seized on errors the FBI made as they sought wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, in the Russia investigation and added, "Now is our chance to fix it."

"They spied on my campaign!" Trump wrote over Jordan's tweet.

Trump's tweet was followed later by a similar social media post from Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who's long fought his party as an advocate for civil liberties.

"Good talk with @realdonaldTrump yesterday and I'm pleased he is urging FISA reform NOW - and not a reauthorization of the current Patriot Act," Paul tweeted Thursday morning.

The President's public posturing and Paul's comments follow days of fast-moving developments as lawmakers and federal law enforcement dash to reauthorize three provisions of the FISA law ahead of a deadline next month. Rifts within both parties have led to competing strategies for the reauthorization and the President's weight behind one of the more extreme proposals could threaten renewal altogether.

On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr told Senate Republicans that he supported legislation that would simply extend the authorization of the expiring provisions, according to several senators. Meanwhile he would take steps internally to fix specific issues in the surveillance procedures and would support a broader reform effort down the line, they said.

Barr had briefed the White House on his plan before delivering it to the Senate this week, a senior Justice Department official said, but with his tweet, Trump appeared to brushback the attorney general in favor of the House Republicans' proposal, which would provide a more immediate rebuke of the FBI for their behavior in the Russia investigation.

Jordan and conservative lawmakers met earlier Wednesday with Jared Kushner and White House counsel Pat Cipollone on the FISA fight, two sources familiar with the situation told CNN.

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