Rand Paul says Trump backs broader FISA reforms, throwing curveball at intelligence bill

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Thursday that President Trump backs his proposal to include reforms to the surveillance court as part of a bill reauthorizing expiring intelligence programs, complicating the path forward for the legislation. 

“The [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] FISA reforms that I think are very necessary is that FISA warrants shouldn’t be issued on Americans and any information gathered by the FISA court shouldn’t used against Americans. It’s for foreign intelligence. This is a big reform. … I think it will get bipartisan support. I’ve talked to the president about it,” Paul said. 

Paul said he would insist on a vote to get the reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court he is pushing for included in any bill to reauthorize three expiring provisions of the USA Freedom Act. 

“He’s supportive of my amendment,” Paul added, asked about his conversation with the president. 

Trump’s decision to back including reforms to the surveillance court in the intelligence bill puts him at odds with Senate GOP leadership and Attorney General William Barr, who told Republican senators in a closed-door lunch on Tuesday that the president would back a clean extension.

Trump has not weighed in publicly about reauthorizing the expiring provisions of the USA Freedom Act, a 2015 bill that overhauled the post-9/11 Patriot Act. Congress has until March 15 to extend the three expiring provisions, including a controversial phone records program known as Section 215 that allows the government to request specific metadata from conversations. 

Barr, according to GOP senators, told them during the closed-door lunch that Trump would back a “clean” extension of the three programs. 

Barr also pledged to use his own rulemaking authority to make changes to the FISA court. 

But Trump’s GOP allies on Capitol Hill have argued that doesn’t go far enough. They are pushing to make broad changes to the FISA courts after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the surveillance of Trump campaign associate Carter Page. 

A spokesman for Sen. Mike Lee said the Utah Republican, who is also pushing to use the reauthorization bill to include broad surveillance reforms, has spoken with Trump. 

“Sen. Lee has had multiple positive phone calls with President Trump on this,” the aide said. 

Tags Donald Trump FISA Fisa Court Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Mike Lee Rand Paul Surveillance USA Freedom Act William Barr

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