FISA abuse by the Obama Dept of Justice and FBI was confirmed by both the DoJ Inspector General and also the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court itself. The temporary extension of some FISA provisions expires this month, and Democrats do not appear interested in making any changes to FISA procedures, e.g., providing enhanced Fourth Amendment protections for American citizens and also independent reviews of FISA warrant applications. The Democrats are loathe to admit what transpired during the Obama regime because it undercuts their entire anti-Trump narrative over the past three-plus years.
Some Republicans believed that the Democrats were going to tie FISA reauthorization to coronavirus funding in order to ram it through without making any chances during this crisis, as reported here:
House Republicans [urged] that any coronavirus funding bill be kept separate from FISA reform after hearing rumblings that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Democratic leadership could force a clean reauthorization of FISA’s expiring powers by attaching it to a “must-have” bill.
Representative Tim Burchett (R., Tenn.), along with 38 other House Republicans, sent a letter … to Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.), warning them not to play “political games” by proposing a coronavirus-FISA package.
That letter appeared to have some impact on the final bill, which was pass out of the House on a 415-2 vote yesterday without FISA language, as reported here. Now it’s on to the Senate, where Democrats and their RINO senator allies could try to slip FISA renewal into the final version of the bill.
For his part, President Trump has said that he won’t sign any FISA reauthorization unless significant changes in process and oversight are made. This was confirmed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) during an interview with Lou Dobbs earlier this week. Here is some of the Q&A:
Dobbs: President Trump met with a group of Republican lawmakers at the White House. They are seeking to find a common approach with which to make major changes in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). There has been discussion that renewal of the controversial spying program would be added to a spending package for funding to fight the coronavirus pandemic, however, the likes of Adam Schiff have actually agreed with a number of Republicans that any reform in FISA should come in a standalone bill rather than be passed in the dark of night. [Sen. Paul – who was in that WH meeting – ] has his own proposal to deal with FISA. He is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security Committees. It seems as if there is a large contingent on Capitol Hill that want to renew [FISA] and then maybe reform it later … after this nation and this president has endured more than three years of abject spying on American citizens by rogues at the FBI and Justice Dept
Paul: Well, I just came from the White House, and the President made absolutely clear … he will not sign a clean reauthorization of the Patriot Act unless we reform FISA. The proposal I gave him was this: don’t use FISA – which is a foreign intelligence course – to spy on Americans; simply say that Americans – if you want to spy on them – you have to go through a constitutional Article III court to get the wiretap. This would protect Americans from the abuses that happened to the Trump campaign. But these abuses could happen to Republicans or Democrats if we have biased people in the FBI or the intelligence agencies, so I think the best reform is lets take Americans out of FISA, and lets keep the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court targeted toward foreigners.
Dobbs: That makes all the sense in the world, and it’s great news that the President will … demand reform of those FISA courts that have beleaguered him … which has violated his constitutional rights for years.
Paul: It’s not a done deal yet, though, because there were many voices in the room who don’t want to reform it … they want to rubber stamp it … and their loyalty is to the Deep State and not to the President and not really to fairness or the constitution. So I can tell you that it was a spirited debate, but I can tell you that the President absolutely sides with those of us who say there has to be reform, and he’s not signing any bill that does not have reform on it.
Dobbs: I know one person who wants that bill to be passed without reform, and that’s Mitch McConnell. And he said this: “If we’re unable to resolve, my preference would be for another extension, which gives us more time to talk, and for those interested in FISA reform – I put myself in that camp – the Attorney General is addressing that himself.” I have to say that to me it is dispiriting to hear a senior Republican official speak like that of a law that has been so misused and abused.
Paul: I can tell you the President was absolutely clear – he did not pull any punches – he said he does not want this to happen to another president ever again. I’m with him, and for me, this is not a partisan thing. I had this viewpoint before President Trump – and actually I would say this if it were a Democrat president that had been abused – nobody that chooses to get involved in politics … Can you imagine if they used this on political activists, or what if you were a right-to-life activist, or you’re an activist for a variety of different issues … should you be allowed to be targeted because the people on the other side use the intelligence apparatus for political purposes? This has to stop, and this is the time to do it. Some of the people in the room that want to reauthorize … they say, well, let’s wait … we’ll study the issue … young man, it’s not the time nor the place to do this … we should come back at a later date. Well, that means that they don’t want it to happen, and it’s a game they play up here to delay things so we never get any reform.
Dobbs: Are we gonna get reform this time? The President on right … I can’t imagine too many people standing there against him.
Paul: I think the reason we will is typically presidential power is protected by all presidents of both parties. Congress tries to take some of that power back from the people, but here we have a president who has been abused by executive power of the previous president, and he sees very clearly that this power can be abusively used, and so, no, I don’t think President Trump is weak on this issue. I don’t think he’s pulling any punches; he wants real reform. He told them that, and to the people who pushed back, he said, “I tell people every night at these rallies that I’m going to fix this problem. Look what they did to me; I’m going to fix this problem.” And he says, “we can’t go out there to the American people and say that we just reauthorized it with no reform; what would they think of us?” The President knows that this has to be fixed. He feels strongly about it. I feel strongly about it. Mike Lee and Jim Jordan and the other reformers – Mark Meadows – we all feel strongly something has to be done. I think our voices were loud. The president is with us, and we’ll see.
Dobbs: I want to turn to Lindsey Graham (R-SC) head of the judiciary committee, who has been promising that there would be investigations. … We have seen nothing but statements from him, and we’ve heard nothing but remarks from him, and sometimes they don’t all line up. He has done absolutely nothing to carry out that investigation. What is your sense of the Judiciary Committee and what it’s failed to do?
Paul: I think that his opinion is that he’s going to wait and let the investigators at the Dept of Justice do this. I really think there is a place for public hearings because I don’t know Mr. Durham. He may well do a complete job. We may well finally have people who are brought to justice for lying to the court. All of these warrants that they got on the President’s campaign were built upon a house of lies. Someone ought to be punished for that. And so I think we could use the Senate Judiciary Committee, but I don’t know that we’re necessarily going to. I think we’re going to wait and see what the Dept of Justice does, but I’m not a real big fan of letting government investigators investigate itself – the same branch of government investigate itself. We keep our fingers crossed that the people who abused the system will be criminally punished, but I don’t think there’s any guarantee of that.
Dobbs: And Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in the Government Operations and Homeland Security Committee is seeking the first subpoenas on Hunter Biden and Burisma. He’s actually trying to do something.
Paul: I support him on that, and I will vote with him. We don’t know if we have all the Republicans. So look at that committee, and think about who you think might not vote with us, and we need to let people know who those people are because I will vote with Sen. Johnson to allow him to have subpoena power. But there are some Republicans hanging in the balance.
End of the Q&A. Here is a summary of the key points made by Sen. Paul:
- The President won’t sign a clean reauthorization of the Patriot Act – or an extension – unless there are substantive reforms to the FISA processes and oversight.
- Paul has a good solution, which is to separate out wiretapping requests for American citizens into a separate Article III court screening process while leaving surveillance of foreigners to the FISA process.
- There are Senate Republicans who want to reauthorize or extend the FISA without any changes. One of them is Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY). Others including Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Burr (R-NC).
- There is a block of Republicans besides Rand Paul who are vociferous about the need to reform FISA, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).
- Paul stated that there should be public hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee on FISA abuse, but Lindsey Graham is inclined to let DoJ investigate itself in the continuing Durham criminal probe. Paul is skeptical that justice will be served.
- Johnson is pursuing subpoenas for Hunter Biden and others in order to investigate Burisma-related corruption. There are some Republican senators on his committee who apparently are hesitant about voting to grant subpoena power to Johnson.