Report: Barr to attend Senate GOP lunch ahead of surveillance debate

Attorney General Bill Barr has recently come under fire from some on both sides of the political divide, as many on the left accuse him of being too loyal to President Donald Trump, while some on the right have asserted that he hasn’t done enough to address the appearance of unequal justice involving the president’s associates and supporters.

Nonetheless, Barr appears to have the support of Republicans in Congress and is scheduled to attend a special closed-door lunch with the Senate GOP caucus next week, according to an unnamed source “familiar with the planning” as reported by The Hill.

Expiring surveillance programs

The expected topic of discussion at the lunch meeting will most likely be the upcoming votes on whether or not to renew authorization for certain government surveillance programs.

Several such programs under the aegis of the USA Freedom Act, such as one known as Section 215 that allows for the collection of metadata on domestic phone calls and text messages, are set to expire in mid-March unless reauthorized by a majority of the Senate, according to the Washington Times.

While civil libertarian-minded senators have expressed concern and even opposition to that and other programs, the existing surveillance structures enjoy the support of the Trump administration — including Barr — and top Republicans in Congress, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The unnamed source told The Hill, “Reauthorization of these certain programs is a priority for both Leader McConnell and AG Barr.”

Tensions with Trump

Politico reported that the Senate GOP lunch meeting involving Barr comes just days after a supposed dust-up between the attorney general and President Trump centered on Trump’s outspoken criticism of the manner in which the prosecutions of some of his associates have been handled in the courts thus far.

Trump had been particularly incensed after an initial sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years had been made by prosecutors in the case against Trump’s longtime friend, Roger Stone.

Barr had reportedly already intervened to reduce that recommendation prior to Trump’s social media comments on the matter, but Barr also took the rare step of publicly criticizing the president’s practice of weighing in on Justice Department business via Twitter.

Concurrent with that were unconfirmed and officially denied reports that Barr even considered resigning due to Trump’s Twitter tirades. Politico noted that several top Senate Republicans had reportedly warned Trump that it would likely prove difficult, if not impossible, for them to confirm a replacement for Barr prior to the election if he were to leave his position.

Meeting scheduled “weeks ago”

The lunch meeting involving Barr and Senate Republicans is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, and it was reportedly arranged “weeks ago,” before the recent affair regarding Stone’s sentencing.

It will be interesting to hear afterwards if anything else besides the expiring surveillance programs formed significant part of the discussion between the senators and the attorney general.

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