WASHINGTON (AP) — After a few confusing tweets, President Donald Trump on Thursday pushed the House to renew a critical national security program that allows spy agencies to collect intelligence on foreign targets abroad.
The House is expected to vote on a version that would put restrictions on how the FBI could use information on Americans that is inadvertently swept up by the program. “This vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land,” Trump said in a morning tweet. “We need it! Get smart!”
But before that he sent out a tweet suggesting that the program was used to collect information that might have been used to taint his campaign.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Trump’s tweets were “inaccurate, conflicting and confusing.” He suggested that a vote on the bill should be delayed until the White House’s position can be ascertained. The Republicans said the vote should be held.
The program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allows U.S. spy agencies to collect information on foreign targets outside the United States. Americans’ communications are inadvertently swept up in the process and privacy advocates and some lawmakers want to require the FBI to get a warrant if it wants to query and view the content of Americans’ communications that are in the database to build domestic crime cases.
On Thursday morning, the president appeared to contradict the position of his own administration. In a tweet, he linked the FISA program that his White House supports to the dossier that alleges his campaign had ties to Russia, catching aides and Capitol Hill officials off guard. A short time later, he went further.
“‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,'” Trump wrote, citing a Fox News headline. “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’s position seemed to be in opposition to the Trump administration’s position, potentially putting the reauthorization vote in doubt. His tweets came shortly after a “Fox and Friends” segment that highlighted the FISA program, calling it “controversial.” Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has also made the television rounds in recent days, has pushed for less invasive spying measures.
The tweets sent White House aides scrambling to explain the apparent about-face. The president’s reversal was yet another example of him seemingly taking cues from television, particularly the morning Fox News show, while also personalizing an issue, in this case the dossier, over a policy position.
There are no obvious links between the dossier and the reauthorization of the spying program, but Trump has repeatedly denounced the document in recent days. The president has said that his campaign and Trump Tower was spied on by the Obama administration, calling the former president a “bad (or sick) guy!” He has offered no proof for such claims.
About an hour after taking a stance against reauthorization, Trump seemed to backtrack and pushed for the act to b