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May 28 2020

How FISA Failed

I’m a stickler for following the rules. For instance I do in fact virtue signal by wearing a mask and gloves that I am willing to conform to make you comfortable with our public interaction. I was reluctant to give up the alliteration but in the original title “Failed” was two words, the first also starting with an “F” and the second of which was “Up”.

Do the math.

Pelosi pulls FISA bill as effort to renew surveillance tools crumbles
By JOHN BRESNAHAN, KYLE CHENEY and SARAH FERRIS, Politico
05/28/2020

House Democrats have pulled a bill to reauthorize parts of the federal surveillance program known as FISA, a stinging defeat for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legislative machine provoked by a veto threat from President Donald Trump.

Pelosi announced Thursday that she would seek negotiations with Senate Republicans, a move that sends both parties back to the drafting table to resolve differences. Democrats had initially resisted because it would slow down the process. The stunning reversal, a rarity for Pelosi, leaves behind a political mess for both parties, with limited options unless Trump, again, changes course.

Hey, he’s against it? I’ll add that to the nearly blank 3 x 5 Card I list his accomplishments on (don’t want to get caught out on debate if somebody rhetorically asks “Say one good thing about him.”). I understand we’re leaving Afghanistan too.

In a letter to her members, the California Democrat said Republicans — at the urging of Trump — had “abandoned their support for our national security.”

“Clearly, because House Republicans have prioritized politics over our national security, we will no longer have a bipartisan veto-proof majority,” Pelosi wrote.

The House had been expected to easily approve the bill this week, with an unusual alliance of Republicans and Democrats who carried a similar version across the floor in March. But that fragile coalition collapsed this week as Trump suddenly intervened, issuing a veto threat that seemed to contradict his own administration’s efforts to renew the law.

GOP support for the measure quickly crumbled, forcing Democrats to summon the votes on their own.

But the Democratic caucus was facing its own revolt from the left, with about 100 progressives refusing to back legislation they saw as undermining privacy rights of Americans. And last-minute language from senior Democrats close to Pelosi, like House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), further muddied the waters for an uneasy left wing.

The retreat by Democrats comes after hours of frenetic, but ultimately unsuccessful, maneuvering by Pelosi and her leadership team on Wednesday. But it had been clear for much of the day that Democrats would not be able to win over enough progressives to pass the bill and send it to Trump’s desk.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged the difficult math on Wednesday evening, shortly after he and Pelosi called off their planned vote and sent members home for the night.

“Frankly, I never expected to win this vote – FISA has always been bipartisan,” Hoyer said.

Trump has rooted his objections to FISA renewal in his disputed claims that the FBI abused its surveillance powers to monitor his campaign in 2016. Though an inspector general review found that a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump campaign aide Carter Page contained significant flaws and omissions, he didn’t conclude whether it would have been enough to invalidate the application altogether.

Ok, that was with a warrant. This Bill lets the FBI do it without a warrant and oh, they can search your Browser History too because Wyden’s Amendment was defeated.

And your Bill didn’t even have that Nancy.

But Trump’s animus toward senior FBI leadership has motivated him and other Republican allies to call for dramatic reforms to the FISA law, even over the efforts by Attorney General William Barr to preserve them largely unchanged.

Democratic objections mounted this week after key committee leaders negotiated an amendment to restrict the FBI’s ability to monitor the web browsing history of Americans. An amendment offered by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) failed in the Senate by a single vote, though the Senate passed its version of the FISA bill earlier this month on an 80-16 vote.

But House leaders had agreed to consider a version in the House offered by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), which seemed poised for passage.

After Republicans began pulling their support for the measure, Wyden, too, bristled at what he said was an inaccurate characterization of his amendment by Schiff. And he began urging the defeat of both the amendment and bill.

This is a bad Bill, bad policy, and I’d be happy to see it perish in a pit of eternal flame (“Kill it with fire!”).