Trump's FISA tweets throw Washington into chaos

President Donald Trump's sunrise ...

Posted: Jan 11, 2018 4:56 PM
Updated: Jan 11, 2018 4:56 PM

President Donald Trump's sunrise tweet casting aspersions on the domestic surveillance program his own intelligence officials have called essential set off a thunderclap of concern in Washington -- and underscored the pitfalls of the President's morning television tweet-alongs.

Phones at the White House began ringing almost immediately after Trump wrote at 7:33 a.m. ET that the FISA program up for reauthorization in the House on Thursday may have been used to "badly surveil" his campaign.

Phones at the White House began ringing almost immediately after Trump tweeted

What ensued was a 101-minute long scramble to clean up the President's position

On the blinking lines: Republican lawmakers and top intelligence officials perplexed that Trump had appeared to contradict more than a week of public statements from the administration in support of the reauthorization, which allows the government to conduct warrantless spying on US soil.

Ultimately, the measure passed handily. But not until after a 101-minute long scramble to clean up the President's position ahead of the midday vote, which Republican leaders had been eying with optimism after spending weeks rounding up votes and batting down demands from the conservative and libertarian elements of their conference.

"(Chief of staff John) Kelly's phone was ringing off the hook," said one senior Republican official close to intelligence matters on Capitol Hill.

"No one could believe it," another Republican supportive of the FISA reauthorization said.

Debate over domestic surveillance

Five-and-a-half years after Edward Snowden leaked details of the government's secret spying programs, the dust-up over Trump's tweet underscored the still-roiling debate over domestic surveillance, technology and Americans' views of their own privacy.

But it also spoke to a more recent phenomenon: Trump's habit of tweeting whatever seems to come across his flat-screen televisions, no matter the advice of his aides nor the position of his administration.

When he sent his early morning message on Thursday, he quoted directly a banner graphic that had appeared on Fox News minutes earlier: "House votes on controversial FISA ACT today."

The headline was punctuated by a direct-to-camera appeal by the conservative judge Andrew Napolitano against re-upping the surveillance program.

"Mr. President, this is not the way to go," he said at 6:47 a.m. ET. "Spying is valid to find the foreign agents among us. But it's got to be based on suspicion, and not an area code."

Trump, who continues to brood over special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible ties between Russia and his associates, took less than an hour to link the FISA issue to his own disputes with US law enforcement agencies.

"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?" he wrote.

Drafting a follow-up

As the tweet buzzed in notifications from Capitol Hill to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Trump's advisers hurried to draft a follow-up that might help preserve the administration's position in support of the act's reauthorization.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo -- one of Trump's most trusted advisers who regularly administers the presidential daily briefing -- was in touch with the White House to discuss the tweet, people familiar with the situation said. A former Republican lawmaker who once declared that Trump's tweets "help" his agency, Pompeo had made a forceful case for reauthorizing the FISA program during a television interview five days ago. A CIA spokesman declined to comment.

Tom Bossert, the homeland security adviser who helps coordinate the administration's national security posture, helped triage the fallout, according to two people familiar with the matter. Eventually, a clarification tweet appeared on Trump's page that read, in part, that Thursday's vote "is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!"

House Speaker Paul Ryan took a phone call from the President about his tweet and the surveillance issue, a source familiar with their conversation said, though they didn't discuss Trump's follow-up message about unmasking.

And Sen. Rand Paul, a forceful advocate for privacy safeguards, received a phone call from Trump after his initial tweet to discuss the matter, according to a senior aide to the Kentucky Republican.

Later, Paul appeared on MSNBC to further clarify Trump's position.

"I have spoken with the President, but I don't think it's necessary that you understand this as switching his position," Paul said on "Morning Joe."

"He still advocates -- or the administration says they advocate -- for reauthorization," he said. "So do I actually. I want reauthorization with reform. I don't think they're mutually exclusive."

White House declines to comment

The White House declined to comment on who spoke to the President on Thursday about the FISA issue.

But the tweet and its follow up continued to reverberate across Washington in the hours before the vote.

Rep. Mark Meadows, who is backing an amendment -- opposed by the White House -- to make major changes to the FISA bill, said the President's tweets have "given people pause."

And House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called Ryan and urged him to pull the reauthorization bill in light of the President's tweet, a senior Democratic source said. Later, Pelosi said during remarks on the House floor that she would vote for it.

Kelly, the White House chief of staff who was inundated with phone calls earlier in the morning, traveled to Capitol Hill for the vote and spoke with lawmakers inside the GOP cloakroom just off the House floor. A retired Marine general who has insisted that Trump's tweets don't have the potential to derail the administration's agenda, he denied again on Thursday that the President's dispatches were harmful.

"It's not more difficult," Kelly said. "It's a juggling act."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 22464

Reported Deaths: 942
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin7540565
Ramsey2610103
Stearns198412
Nobles14883
Anoka126259
Dakota118244
Olmsted57510
Washington56230
Kandiyohi4751
Rice4112
Clay40625
Scott3792
Todd2960
Wright2691
Sherburne2192
Mower2161
Carver1852
Benton1692
Steele1480
Martin1265
Blue Earth1221
St. Louis11513
Freeborn970
Pine850
Winona7815
Nicollet747
Carlton730
Cottonwood650
Otter Tail620
Unassigned6110
Goodhue603
Watonwan590
Polk592
Crow Wing571
Itasca537
Chisago501
Dodge460
Chippewa441
Meeker440
Le Sueur431
Morrison400
Douglas390
Jackson390
Becker370
Murray360
Lyon360
Isanti330
McLeod290
Waseca240
Rock210
Swift170
Pennington170
Mille Lacs171
Fillmore171
Wabasha170
Brown142
Faribault130
Beltrami130
Sibley130
Cass122
Norman110
Wilkin113
Kanabec111
Pipestone100
Marshall90
Pope80
Wadena80
Aitkin70
Koochiching70
Yellow Medicine60
Lincoln50
Renville50
Mahnomen51
Red Lake40
Traverse30
Big Stone30
Clearwater30
Redwood30
Grant30
Lac qui Parle30
Houston20
Lake10
Hubbard10
Roseau10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 18342

Reported Deaths: 496
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk3876115
Woodbury265831
Black Hawk171343
Linn93876
Marshall87815
Dallas87317
Buena Vista6820
Johnson6058
Muscatine54741
Wapello5384
Crawford4882
Tama40026
Scott34610
Louisa33610
Dubuque33016
Jasper25716
Pottawattamie2277
Sioux2100
Washington1858
Wright1240
Allamakee1194
Plymouth1191
Warren1140
Story961
Poweshiek888
Mahaska888
Bremer676
Henry671
Clinton601
Des Moines581
Boone560
Taylor480
Cedar461
Guthrie443
Clarke400
Benton391
Jones360
Iowa360
Monroe354
Shelby350
Clayton313
Buchanan310
Osceola310
Marion300
Webster291
Hamilton280
Madison261
Fayette260
Monona240
Lee230
Cherokee230
Winneshiek230
Cerro Gordo221
Davis200
Jefferson190
Harrison190
Lyon190
Grundy190
Floyd181
Sac170
Mills160
Hardin150
Butler150
Delaware150
Humboldt140
Ida140
Keokuk140
Hancock140
Appanoose133
Jackson130
Dickinson130
Clay130
Greene130
Howard120
Audubon121
Winnebago110
Cass110
Page100
Van Buren90
Franklin90
Carroll90
Pocahontas90
Chickasaw80
Emmet80
Unassigned80
Kossuth80
Adair70
Adams70
Lucas70
Union60
Montgomery60
Mitchell50
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Palo Alto30
Worth30
Calhoun20
Decatur10
Wayne10
Rochester
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 67°
Mason City
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 67°
Albert Lea
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 64°
Austin
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Charles City
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 70°
spotty pop-up showers and storms for Wednesday & Thursday
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

IA Evictions and Foreclosures Can Start May 28

Image

Doctor scolds politicos who fail to social distance

Image

MN churches allowed to reopen, how are they adapting

Image

Sean Weather 5/27

Image

City Council supporting outdoor seating

Image

Boys and Girls Club Care Packages

Image

Helping get food on the table

Image

Good news for job seekers in Rochester

Image

Do not delay medical care

Image

Stay safe on the water

Community Events