WASHINGTON—When the House of Representatives approved a bipartisan compromise measure on March 11 to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including the court at the center of the Spygate scandal, it appeared supporters were headed to a quick victory.
Even Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee and one of President Donald Trumps fiercest defenders during the Democratic impeachment drive that developed out of Spygate, called the measure “real reform,” although he acknowledged he wanted more FISA changes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.C.), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) announced they support upper-chamber passage of the measure, known officially as the “USA Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020.”
Attorney General William Barr added his voice to support for the bill that passed the House on a 278–136 vote, with most of the opposition coming from Republicans.
The present FISA law ends March 15, so the Senate must pass some version of the House bill and then have it signed by Trump to avoid a lapse in authorization.
But as Congress grappled March 12 with the coronavirus crisis while hurrying to finish up work before leaving town for next weeks recess, angry critics of the last-minute reauthorization were encouraged by a Trump tweet:
“Many Republican Senators want me to Veto the FISA Bill until we find out what led to, and happened with, the illegal attempted coup of the duly elected President of the United States, and others!”
Trump was referring mainly to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who have been stalwart opponents of reauthorizing FISA without making substantial changes to protect against repeated abuses like those documented by Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Horowitz told Congress in 2019 that there were 17 instances of serious abuses by the DOJ and FBI in 2016 of FISA procedures designed to ensure against violations of individual Americans civil liberties.
The “significant errors and omissions” included failing to disclose to the FISA court, in requests for surveillance authority against former 2016 Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, that the requests were based almost entirely on a document that was compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele and paid for by the Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trumps Democratic presidential opponent.
Lee retweeted Trumps declaration, then Paul issued a tweet of his own, declaring: “Senate Republican leaders are trying to ram through fake FISA amendments without real changes. I will object. I continue to stand with @realDonaldTrump.”
The biggest challenge now facing FISA renewal critics rests in that McConnell, a masterful legislative operator, controls the Senate. But McConnell cant know with certainty what Trump will do and the March 15 deadline hasnt gone away.
“Theyre going to have to steamroll the dissenters, so even if its a done deal, even if they get something passed, they cant get it passed in time to get it reauthorized by the 15th unless theyre going to keep the Senate in all weekend,” former Paul senior adviser Brian Darling told The Epoch Times on March 12.
Darling said Trumps March 12 tweet was “reasonably favorable towards the Rand Paul-Mike Lee position, so that might throw a monkey wrench in what the leadership wRead More – Source