Donald Trump

Meet the Republicans Who Care About Surveillance Abuse Only When Trump's the Target (UPDATE: Trump Signs 702 Bill)

They voted to expand federal snooping. Now they're outraged about how it's used.


Dominique Pineiro/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Some lawmakers who just voted to expand the feds' ability to secretly snoop on Americans are suddenly very concerned about how such surveillance might have been misused.

They're not concerned about the privacy of average Americans like you or me. They'e concerned that some FBI officials and members of the Obama administration may have abused Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities to spy on and leak communications from Donald Trump's campaign staff.

Members of the House have seen a four-page classified memo originating from the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee. It reportedly claims significant misconduct and abuse of the FISA approval process to go after Trump's campaign.

I can't be much more specific about what the memo says because I can't see it. It's classified. The lawmakers who have seen it cannot say what's in it. (Again, it's classified.) But a bunch of Republican lawmakers have been coming forward to insist that it's very bad and that we should all be very concerned. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) called the contents "worse than Watergate."

They want the memo's contents declassified and released. Conservatives are pushing a hashtag campaign, #ReleaseTheMemo, calling for the public to see the documents and the allegations within.

Honestly, they should release the memo. It may just be political theater intended to discredit the investigation into Trump's staff, but that's an argument in favor of releasing the memo, not withholding it: If its contents are hogwash, then we can all see that it's hogwash, say so, and move on. As it stands, we're stuck with grandstanding politicians with obvious agendas butting heads against other grandstanding politicians with other obvious agendas, and the public doesn't even have the benefit of knowing what the memo actually says. We're just being told to feel a certain way based on partisan loyalties.

But let's make something clear here: These guys only care about how the FISA surveillance abuses affect them. Rep. King voted just last week to let the feds secretly collect the communications of Americans, without warrants, and use what they find in domestic criminal investigations—under a law originally intended to spy on foreign terrorists and agents of espionage.

Check out this tweet campaign from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.):

Zeldin seems terribly concerned about the abuse of federal surveillance, but just like King he voted last week to expand the government's authority to surveil its citizens.

Not every Republican is a hypocrite here. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) also tweeted out his concerns about the memo's contents and wants it publicly released. Unlike Zeldin, he voted against renewing and expanding FISA surveillance authorities. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), who has said he finds the memo's contents "extremely disturbing," has been attempting to reform the FISA Amendments to stop warrantless searches of Americans' communications.

But pols like Zeldin and King are essentially the inverse of the Democratic lawmakers who call Trump a wannabe dictator but then vote just like Zeldin and King to expand federal surveillance powers.

Edward Snowden and some other folks are hoping this burst of outrage will prompt President Trump to veto this renewal of federal snooping powers. After all, we did have that awkward tweet last week where Trump worried about FISA abuse and contradicted the White House's formal position in favor of the legislation.

Don't hold your breath, though. It's great that there are a few people in Congress like Poe and Yoho who care about the Fourth Amendment all around, but Trump is interested only in how surveillance has been used to hurt him. The narrative being sold here is not that these broad surveillance authorities are bad. It's that bad people in the deep state misused these authorities to hurt Trump.

Trump will sign the FISA reauthorization bill, I'm certain. He shouldn't, but he will.

UPDATE: Just before 4 p.m. Trump tweeted he had signed the bill renewing and expanding Section 702 FISA authorities:

NEXT: The Gen X vs. Millennials War Over #MeToo

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  1. Seeing as how all the Congressmen and media types are glossing over the fact that domestic snooping without a warrant is unconstitutional, I find what they say mere distractions from the illegality of it all.

  2. These guys only care about how the FISA surveillance abuses affect them.

    Haven’t you heard? Selfishness is a virtue.

  3. Well it’s a bit of a pickle when a presidential campaign is also acting on behalf of a foreign agent to do damage to the US.

    1. Has anyone ever told you you’re kinda dumb?

      1. Just saying, if there was ever a reason to use our surveillance apparatus.

        1. You’re really gonna hump that conspiracy dry, aren’t you? Very well, I apologize and retract the ‘kinda’ from my initial statement.

          1. A friend of mine used to use the expression “like a puppy dryhumping a cheese grater” and I can think of no one that applies to more than Tony-boy.

          2. But tell me more about Benghazi.

            Trump is giving you an escape hatch from constant Republican leg humping. I don’t understand why you people don’t take it.

      2. Hey, making hysterical and unfounded accusations instead of criticizing legitimately troubling actions is bound to work one of these days!

        1. Luckily we have an independent investigation to sort it out in the end.

          Or, as the majority of the nonpartisan free-thinkers here will no doubt call it, “Fake investigation! Sad!””

          1. Mueller? Mueller?

            Um, he’s sick. My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Robert pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.

    2. Obama got away with that.

      Your hero Trump is now president.

    3. This article/blog said nothing about the Uranium 1 deal and I don’t see how it’s relevant here.

      1. Dozens of reputable fact checkers do, though. Maybe avail yourself of one before making the world dumber by opining again.

        1. You mean fact checkers that support lefty causes no matter what. They are about an unbiased as the pollsters during election 2016. Boy were they wrong.

          1. What a perfect worldview if you want to believe a bunch of horseshit and never challenge yourself on any of it. Indeed, someone stating a fact you don’t like is itself evidence that you’re correct, because teh conspiracy.

            Let’s just undo the Enlightenment entirely. Nothing it did seems to be relevant anymore.

    4. Hey, Tony. The 80s called, they want their foreign policy back.

  4. Laws for thee, not me!

    Coercion for you, exemption for me.

  5. Zeldin seems terribly concerned about the abuse of federal surveillance, but just like King he voted last week to expand the government’s authority to surveil its citizens.

    Give them a break, Scooter. They haven’t the slightest idea what’s in any of those things they sign.

    1. “We have to pass [a bill] to find out what’s in it.”

      1. “In the immortal words of Peter King, ‘I signed what?'”

    2. This is almost assuredly true 99% of the time.

  6. These feckless taint-faced waterheads are outraged by abuses of an Act they just voted to continue?

    Politician, meet woodchipper.

  7. Obviously the solution is to have the president constantly tweeting out the locations and activities of Zeldin and King.

  8. I submitted a comment and it’s GONE.

    I’m scared ….

    1. Keep refreshing….it will magically reappear after a few minutes.

      Reason would rather spend money on other things besides a working website.

  9. I’ve always wondered… in cases like this, the president has the power to declassify anything he wants, so why wouldn’t he just order this to be declassified?

    1. Same reason that a president just does not pardon everyone in federal prison, effective immediately.

  10. I haven’t really been able to figure this out. Even my business partner, who is a 100% pro-police state loon, finds this to be horrifying. I don’t know any Republicans who are in favor of warrantless surveillance. Is this actually popular with the GOP base today, or are they just ignoring their supporters?

    For the (R) voters I know, there’s no hypocrisy here, because they’ve been opposed to this stuff for a while, and they still are. Obviously, the (R) Legislators can’t say the same thing.

  11. It’s always about whose butt is being hurt. Is this supposed to be news?

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