© Greg Nash
Attorney General William Barr told Senate Republicans during a closed-door caucus lunch Tuesday that he wants to make changes to the shadowy court process at the center of a damning watchdog report on surveillance efforts involving the Trump campaign in 2016.
Barr told GOP senators that he wants to use the regulatory process to make changes to the court associated with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), according to several who attended the meeting.
"He went over his recommendations and some internal reforms about FISA warrant application and surveillance technology being used," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two MORE (R-S.C.). "He's going to do some things that he can do."
Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerBiden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions Overnight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation Senators to meet with Ukraine president to reaffirm US support MORE (R-N.D.) added that Barr "talked about things he would ... like to make through regulation."
The discussion on making reforms to the FISA court comes after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released a damning report on the FBI's warrant application process involving former Trump campaign associate Carter Page.
Horowitz found a total of 17 "significant inaccuracies and omissions" in the applications to monitor Page, taking particular issue with applications to renew the FISA warrant and chastising the FBI for a lack of satisfactory explanations for those mistakes.
Justice Department spokespeople didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about what changes the attorney general would like to enact.
Congress has until March 15 to reauthorize a handful of provisions under the USA Freedom Act.
Some House Republicans had eyed trying to attach the FISA fight to the broader surveillance discussions, a move that could have inserted a political lightning rod into an already controversial debate.
But that had gotten pushback from Senate Republicans, including members of the Intelligence Committee, who want the discussions to be separate.
Graham and Cramer both noted that Congress could still pass separate FISA reforms. Graham, as Judiciary Committee chairman, has pledged to investigate the process and the warrant application regarding Page."I think that's a good start, that doesn't mean we won't act legislatively," Graham said.
The lunch Tuesday was Barr's first face-to-face meeting with most of the Senate Republican Conference since tensions flared over the Justice Department's handling of a case this month involving Trump associate Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDemocrats differ over how Biden should handle Jan. 6 anniversary Alex Jones suing Pelosi and Jan. 6 panel, planning to plead the Fifth Photos of the Week: Tornado aftermath, Medal of Honor and soaring superheroes MORE. But multiple GOP senators said neither Barr's job security nor Stone were brought up during the closed-door meeting.
Instead, Republicans said Barr asked for a straight extension of the USA Freedom Act. Congress needs to reauthorize three provisions, including a controversial records program, known as Section 215, that gathered metadata on domestic text messages and phone calls.
They also need to make decisions on two other programs — one authorizing "roving" wiretaps and the other on lone wolf surveillance authority.
"He basically talked about a clean reauthorization of the Freedom Act," Cramer said.