Bid to extend U.S. surveillance tools stalls after Trump threatens veto

Bid to extend U.S. surveillance tools stalls after Trump threatens veto

Legislation extending surveillance authorities that the Federal Bureau of Investigation sees as vital in fighting terrorism was thrown into doubt as President Donald Trump threatened a veto and Republican leaders and top liberal Democrats said they would oppose it.

Trump said he would "quickly VETO" the legislation once it reaches his desk.

The path to passing the legislation, which initially had bipartisan support, became murky Wednesday after Trump sent a series of tweets expressing his discontent. "Our Country has just suffered through the greatest political crime in its history".

McCarthy said he believes investigations into alleged FISA abuses inside the FBI during the 2016 presidential election should be completed before any vote takes place on reauthorizing the legislation.

Trump had suggested Tuesday evening that he would oppose the measure, prompting Republicans who once backed the deal to follow Trump's lead and say Wednesday that they would now vote against it.

Late Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asked Democratic leadership to pull the bill from the floor.

The bill is also facing new opposition in the House.


The Senate cleared the bill in a strong bipartisan vote late last week. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Mark Pocan, D-Wis. But that consensus crumbled Wednesday after the Justice Department came out against the bill, which was amended by the Senate.

"Let's go back work together", added McCarthy. On Wednesday, he stated a new FISA bill must ensure surveillance powers will not be used to spy on Americans.

The bill reauthorizes three key surveillance provisions until December 2023: the so-called "business records", which authorizes the government to collect information from phone and Internet providers; "roving wiretaps", which allows investigators to eavesdrop on those who switch phone numbers or acquire "burner" phones; and "lone wolf", which allows the government to monitor foreigners suspected of aiding foreign terrorists but are not tied to global terrorist groups. They also make it easier for investigators to continue eavesdropping on a subject who has switched cell phone providers to thwart detection.

House Republican leadership urged GOP members not to vote for it. For 231 years, never have we seen a proxy vote on the floor of the House. The legislation, however, falls short of the sweeping reforms called for by privacy and civil liberties advocates. However, House Republicans have claimed bills passed as a result of proxy voting are legally void and can not become law.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in a statement that the department opposes the Senate's version of the bill as well as House-proposed amendments introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

There were "no" yes votes from Republicans. It gives the attorney general authority to sign off on surveillance requests of elected officials and federal candidates, prevents the government from obtaining cellphone and Global Positioning System locations from providers, and bolsters the court's power to appoint independent parties to oversee the process. "If the Democrats bring this bill up, they are just playing politics, and this is not something to play politics with".

The statements underscored the tortuous process Congress has faced in renewing the surveillance powers in the wake of an inspector general report that documented serious errors and mistakes in how the FBI used its authorities during the Russian Federation investigation. Barr praised the measure, saying it will protect against abuse of surveillance powers while keeping key provisions that allow the government to investigate terrorists.

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