According to a Politico report, President Donald Trump told Rand Paul that he is not in favor of an extension of expiring surveillance authorities, which casts doubts about the future of the program as the March 15 deadline rapidly approaches.
The Kentucky Senator told reporters that Trump conversed with him about the matter on Wednesday, February 26, 2020, a day after Attorney General William Barr informed GOP senators that Congress should extend the expiring provisions concerning roving wire taps, lone wolf actors, and the controversial call data collection program.
When asked about the differing perspectives between his conversation with Trump and Barr’s comments to senators, Paul claimed there was “misinformation that got out from some people in the administration” about the expiring surveillance authorities.
“The president was out of the country and somebody mischaracterized his positions. I’ll leave it up to y’all to figure that out,” Paul continued.
Paul claims Trump is “very supportive” of his amendment to keep the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act from targeting Americans, which reflects the constitutionalist Senator’s concerns about the way the Trump campaign was spied on in 2016.
“FISA warrants should not be issued against Americans,” Paul declared on Thursday afternoon. “Americans shouldn’t be spied on by a secret court. I think he agrees completely with that and that’s the amendment that I’m going to insist on. I’m not letting anything go easy without a vote on my amendment.”
Paul’s conversation with Trump could derail plans being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to extend these expiring powers, which McConnel said on February 25, 2020 was his preference. This also highlights another key issue in which Barr and Trump have taken opposite views on. The sentencing of his ally Roger Stone compelled Trump to make Twitter comments that annoyed Barr. The Attorney General said these comments “make it impossible for me to do my job.”
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Most Senate Republicans want to keep Barr in his current position. Many of them actually agree with his perspective on the FISA courts. Paul was the only Republican to vote against Barr’s confirmation as attorney general.
Barr did entertain the idea of making certain reforms that Republicans were seeking, which included impeding the ability of FISA courts to target Americans through new regulations.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said he has plans to talk about the matter on February 28, 2020 and try to push forward a compromise.
“The best thing is for me to try and find out what happened and see if we need to do more than the attorney general’s done. So maybe an extension for a period of time that allows us to come back toward the end of the year, maybe would work,” Graham said.
These reforms will unlikely please Paul, who said he doesn’t care if the provisions expire given his total opposition to the Patriot Act.
Barr “wants to do just his own regulatory reforms, some of which are good but are not enough. We have to fix the law,” Paul claimed. “His tenure could be six months and then the next attorney general changes it. This is an inflection point where we should change the law.”
Trump should listen to Paul’s advice and lead on the issue of completely scrapping the Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act is a vestige of the failed Bush era and should be laid to rest.