House blocks renewal of FISA surveillance authority as Trump urges, 'KILL FISA'

 April 11, 2024

In a demonstration of Donald Trump's power even when out of office, the former president successfully pressured House Republicans Wednesday to block a bill that would have extended sweeping surveillance authorities for the "Deep State."

Members of the intelligence community, top leaders in Congress, and the Biden administration had lobbied to renew section 702 of the FISA Act, which allows warrantless spying of American citizens in contact with non-citizen targets.

A procedural vote failed 193-228 after Trump urged Congress to "KILL FISA" while reminding Republicans of the scandalous role that FISA played in the Trump-Russia saga.

Trump triumphs with House vote

The FBI spied on Trump's 2016 campaign using FISA, which is meant to target foreign spies and suspected terrorists.

Section 702 was not involved in the FBI's surveillance of the Trump campaign. Instead, the FBI misled the secretive FISA court about the reliability of a notorious dossier linking Trump and Russia to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide.

The FISA scandal, or FISA-gate as it became known, dealt lasting damage to public trust in the FBI and the intelligence community in general, especially on the right.

Ahead of the Wednesday vote, Trump urged Republicans to "KILL FISA."


No major reforms

19 Republicans crossed the aisle Wednesday to block a procedural vote backed by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). All Democrats voted against the Republican majority's procedural "rule" out of custom.

The vote was a reminder of a split between Trump and national security hawks in his party, who have continued to support FISA as a critical counter-terrorism tool.

"We will regroup and formulate another plan," Johnson said. "We cannot allow Section 702 of FISA to expire. It's too important to national security. I think most of the members understand that."

While the bill included modest tweaks, it lacked the major reforms sought by House conservatives, including an amendment that would require a warrant to spy on Americans swept up in data collection under Section 702.

Intelligence community leaders have dismissed the idea as fatal to the FISA program, which they have defended broadly as critical for national security.

Trump's former attorney general Bill Barr blasted Trump's call to kill FISA as "crazy" and called the program "our principal tool in protecting the homeland from terrorist threats committed here in the United States."

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