After Trump Broadside, Surveillance Bill Teeters in the House

Speaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday faced a buzz saw of Republican opposition to his bid to extend a warrantless surveillance law that national security officials call crucial to their efforts to fight terrorism, after former President Donald J. Trump urged lawmakers to kill the legislation.

Republican leaders said they would plunge ahead with a midday vote to bring up the bill, which would extend a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act known as Section 702 and make modest changes. But the fate of the measure was very much in doubt after Mr. Trump’s statement, which added a powerful voice of opposition to an already sizable contingent of right-wing lawmakers who have clamored for a more sweeping overhaul that would severely limit the government’s spying powers.

Aides said it was possible that Republicans would yank the bill if they failed to quell the brewing revolt.

No Democrats were expected to vote to move forward on the measure — among other things, Republicans have bundled it with an unrelated resolution condemning President Biden’s border policies — so just three Republican defections would be enough to scuttle the move. At least one hard-right member, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, has already pledged to try to tank it.

Stoking the opposition, Mr. Trump posted overnight on social media, “KILL FISA, IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS. THEY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN!!!”

The statement was largely incoherent as a matter of policy. Section 702 allows the government to target foreigners abroad for surveillance without warrants. The instance Mr. Trump was apparently referring to — when the F.B.I. obtained wiretap orders on a former campaign adviser to his 2016 campaign as part of an investigation into Russian interference — concerned a different section of FISA for targeting Americans and people on domestic soil in national security inquiries.

Back to top button