On Wednesday, Donald Trump threatened to veto the renewal of surveillance authorizations in the recent Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) bill if it passed the House of Representatives, putting him in opposition to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
As reported by The Intercept, the Senate recently failed to pass an amendment to the legislation that would limit the FBI’s ability to conduct warrantless surveillance of web-browsing history and online activity. Although the publication notes the bill almost went through significant reforms, Pelosi allegedly pushed instead for renegotiation with the House Intelligence Committee. From there, The Intercept claims Adam Schiff “watered down the legislation,” which continued to face bipartisan criticism.
“The vote is expected to be close, the result of furious last-minute lobbying by civil libertarians on both the left and right, as well as opposition from Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif,” The Intercept report predicted.
Although the House was scheduled to vote on the legislation on Wednesday, the vote was postponed, and Pelosi ultimately scrapped the bill. As reported by CNN, on Thursday, the House voted 284-122 to negotiate a new proposal with the Senate. According to Pelosi, Republican support for the legislation “disappeared by a tweet — the twinkle of a tweet.”
Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash recently took aim at the bill and noted McConnell’s role in pushing it past the Senate. He referred to reporting by The Daily Beast’s national security reporter, Spencer Ackerman, who claimed that McConnell is using Trump and his allies’ war on the FBI as cover for expansions of Attorney General William Barr’s powers.
As noted by Amash, Trump’s decision to threaten a veto is a shift from his previous support for FISA. The Michigan congressman called the move a “small win.”
If nothing else, Donald Trump’s wild inconsistency on FISA—he’s threatening to veto a bill that’s not as bad as one he already signed—has forced Republicans to adopt a more pro-privacy posture than they otherwise might, if only to survive the political moment. That’s a small win.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 28, 2020
Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of the Congressional Progress Caucus spoke to The Intercept before the bill was scrapped and said he was urging members to vote passage of the bill.
“We have grave concerns that this legislation does not protect people in the United States from warrantless surveillance, especially their online activity including web browsing and internet searches,” Pocan said in a statement written by fellow co-chair and Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
No American should have to choose between security or freedom. I’ll be voting NO on the reauthorization of Patriot Act/FISA provisions because it fails to protect our civil liberties and 4th Amendment constitutional rights. pic.twitter.com/Ywo1DtrVEJ
— Tulsi Gabbard ???? (@TulsiGabbard) May 28, 2020
Trump and the Republican Party’s shift on the bill comes after Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s 476-page report into the president’s 2016 campaign, which showed evidence of misconduct in the FISA applications.
According to a report from CNN, a subsequent inquiry from Horowitz found widespread problems with the FISA warrant process as a whole.