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“It was a spirited discussion. The president made it exceedingly clear that he will not accept a clean reauthorization…without real reform,” Paul told reporters after the meeting.
Two GOP aides confirmed that Trump told lawmakers he would not support extending the USA Freedom Act provisions without broader FISA reforms.
Congress has until March 15 to extend the three USA Freedom Act provisions that deal with roving wiretaps, lone wolf surveillance and a controversial phone records program that allows the government to request metadata.
Barr and McConnell pitched the idea of a clean extension of the provisions during the meeting, three sources told The Hill.
McConnell made a similar pitch during a press conference earlier Tuesday, while telling reporters he would support a short-term extension if Congress couldn’t reach a larger deal by the deadline.
“My own preference is to extend these three or four expiring authorities … but there are differences among my members and among the Democrats on the way forward. Whether we can resolve those and pass new legislation is unclear. If we’re unable to resolve our differences, my preference would be for another extension,” McConnell said.
Congress previously passed a 90-day extension of the programs in a December spending bill. Paul, on Tuesday night, wouldn’t rule out that Trump could support a weeks-long stopgap to buy more time to craft a deal on larger surveillance reforms.
Lawmakers have floated extensions ranging from two months to after the November election and potentially to 2022. Paul noted an idea “specifically talked about,” and rejected during the White House meeting, was kicking it until after the November election.
“I think that if there was something, if there were something very, very short term with the promise that a reform were coming, the president might” sign that, Paul said. “But there’s not going to be a long term, and by long term I mean anything more than a couple of weeks that the president would sign.”
Neither chamber has been able to move a bill to reauthorize the USA Freedom Act provisions despite having only eight working days before the deadline.
A growing number of lawmakers are supporting reforms to the FISA Court after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found 17 “significant inaccuracies and omissions” in the FISA warrants related to Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Progressives and libertarians have raised concerns for years that there was not enough transparency or privacy protections provided for those targeted by the surveillance court. Those concerns for abuse have found a broader audience with Republicans in the wake of Horowitz’s findings.