Apr 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Johnson tries to save spying law after Trump called to "kill" it

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson's final sales pitch to his members on reauthorizing a key spy bill urged them to "get the classified briefing" to understand his urgency in not letting it lapse, sources in the room told Axios.

Why it matters: The speaker is looking to assure GOP critics of FISA reauthorization — which permits spying on noncitizens abroad — as he faces threats from conservatives to tank a procedural vote on the legislation unless language on warrant requirements is included.

  • Former President Trump isn't helping the cause, two lawmakers said, after saying it was "used illegally" to spy on his campaign. Trump said "KILL FISA" in a post on Truth Social.
  • The current version of FISA allows the FBI to search the collected data to see if it includes data from Americans — which conservatives want to require warrants.
  • Johnson told members the "bill is incredibly strong" even without changes, but said areas where negotiators failed to reach consensus would be "debated and voted on as amendments on the House floor," one senior source told Axios.

Inside the room: Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said he is focused on monitoring how terrorists are "training and raising money and communicating with Americans or people in America in order to conduct attacks here."

  • "If you make it nearly impossible, or at least severely degrade my ability to make those connections, well, then you're gonna have blood on your hands eventually," he added.
  • But proponents of the warrant language including House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good (R-Va.) and Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), who say it needs changes to protect privacy rights.

Between the lines: Critics of the warrant language noted Trump national security officials support its passage and feel language is designed to combat the former president's concerns.

  • One member said "the underlying legislation "is directed at Trump in the sense of preventing what happened to Trump," arguing "it fixes a lot of problems with the improper queries that have been done, codified a lot of the good changes" including preventing it from being used for political opposition research.

The big picture: The bill's fate even with amendment votes remains dicey ahead Wednesday's procedural vote, with conservative vowing to tank the rule on the floor.

  • Leadership previously pulled FISA bills twice due to infighting.
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