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Pro-Trump Republicans kill spy bill

The former president encouraged his party to scuttle a bill that was used by the FBI to spy on his campaign

A group of conservative lawmakers have defeated an effort by House Speaker Mike Johnson to hold a vote on funding the FISA surveillance act. While the act once enjoyed bipartisan support, the GOP’s pro-Trump faction have soured on it since it was used to wiretap the former president’s campaign.

Drafted in 2008, Section 702 of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) grants US intelligence agencies the power to monitor messages from abroad made through American networks like Google. The provision, which must be reauthorized every year by Congress, also allows these agencies to ‘indirectly’ collect data from millions of American citizens.

Once collected, this intelligence is stored for five years, during which it can be searched – for example by name, phone number, or email address – by the agencies without a warrant.

Ahead of an April 19 deadline to renew Section 702, 19 conservative Republicans opposed a procedural vote on Wednesday that would have brought the measure – along with three other ùnrelated bills – to a full floor vote later this week. With 193 votes in favor and 228 against, the floor vote has effectively been postponed unless Johnson can win back the support of the 19 defectors.

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Among the dissidents are stalwart backers of former President Donald Trump, like Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. Other Republican critics of the surveillance state, like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, voted to bring Section 702 to the floor, arguing that they deserve a chance to hold an open “vote on whether the government needs a warrant to spy on you,” Massie wrote on X.

“I will not support any version of FISA that doesn’t protect Americans from spying by our own government,” Greene said after Wednesday’s vote. “The American people deserve transparency in this process.If we can’t protect our citizens from their own government, then FISA SHOULD DIE!”

Prior to the vote, Trump took to his Truth Social platform to encourage Republicans to “KILL FISA.”

“IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS,” Trump continued, adding: “THEY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN!!!” 

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Back in 2016, the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page. However, the agency’s warrant application was built heavily on a dossier of salacious and unproven gossip collected by former British spy Christopher Steele, and omitted key information that would have ensured its rejection.

Along with a group of progressive Democrats, Gaetz, Greene, and other conservatives want a renewed Section 702 to come with amendments prohibiting the warrantless surveillance of American citizens.

After Wednesday’s vote, Johnson told reporters on Capitol Hill that he would “reformulate another plan” to pass the contentious legislation, without giving any further details. The bill “is too important to national security,” he added. “I think most of the members understand that.”

 

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