Trump was at odds with his own White House on a controversial surveillance law — then furiously walked it back
President Donald Trump on Thursday criticized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) hours after the White House press secretary released a statement saying the administration supported the law and opposed an amendment that would impose limits on it.
"'House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.' This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?" Trump tweeted Thursday morning.
The tweet came shortly after Fox News' morning show, "Fox & Friends" — which Trump frequently watches and praises for its coverage of him — ran a segment with the chyron, "House votes on controversial FISA Act today."
Trump's tweet appeared to contradict the statement White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released on Wednesday night, which signaled the administration's strong support for FISA.
Trump attempted to clarify his position in a tweet a little more than an hour later.
"With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!" he said.
The House has been gearing up for a FISA fight since late December, when it was due for a reauthorization. Congress passed a short-term extension until January 19, but t he new bill has pitted the House committees against each other. People working on the House Intelligence Committee and House Judiciary Committee told Business Insider that they've been "stuck in FISA hell" for weeks.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, inserted a last-minute "unmasking" provision that would change the intelligence community's process for identifying US citizens caught up in foreign surveillance.
The provision, which was ultimately scrapped, threatened to derail the committee's FISA bill, two sources told Business Insider. Nunes' efforts were first reported by The Daily Beast.
Nunes was forced to step aside from the committee's investigation into Russian election interference after he told reporters that he had seen classified documents that raised questions about whether the Obama administration had improperly unmasked members of the Trump campaign. He was recently cleared by the House Ethics Committee, but he has continued to investigate potential improprieties by the DOJ and FBI.
The Trump administration urged the House of Representatives to vote against the "USA Rights" amendment — which would impose limits on the US government's surveillance authority — "and preserve the useful role of FISA's Section 702 authority plays in protecting American lives," per the statement.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump's tweets.
Section 702, which allows the US government to track and collect the communications of foreigners overseas without a warrant, came under scrutiny as the intelligence community began looking into Russia's election interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to sway the race in his favor.