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House Speaker Paul Ryan had to explain foreign surveillance to Trump

Donald Trump
Donald Trump.

AP Photo/Evan

  • After President Donald Trump sent a tweet criticizing a
    critical national security program that allows the US to
    monitor foreign agents, House Speaker Paul Ryan had to spend
    half an hour explaining the difference between domestic and
    foreign surveillance to Trump.
  • The tweet was also at odds with a statement the White
    House press secretary sent out the night before, which said the
    administration strongly supported reauthorizing the
  • After Ryan and chief of staff John Kelly spoke to
    Trump, he sent out a second tweet amending his

President Donald Trump’s decision this week to blast out an early-morning
slamming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA) sent lawmakers scrambling on Capitol Hill. 

“‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT
today,'” Trump
, referring to a chyron earlier Thursday on “Fox &
Friends,” the Fox News morning show he often watches and praises
for its coverage of him.

“This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the
discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the
Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?” he

Trump’s tweet appeared to contradict a statement the White
House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, released on
Wednesday night signaling the administration’s strong support for
FISA — and specifically its Section 702, which allows the US
government to track and collect the communications of foreigners
overseas without a warrant.

Following the tweet, House Speaker Paul Ryan spent half an
hour explaining the difference between foreign and domestic
surveillance to Trump over the phone, The Washington Post reported.
As Ryan spoke to Trump, Republicans who sat in on the call
reacted with “disbelief and befuddlement,” per the report.

The tweet also prompted chief of staff John Kelly to intervene
and explain the importance of Section 702 and the US’ foreign
surveillance program to Trump. 

The president attempted to clarify his position a little more
than an hour after his initial tweet.

“With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the
unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about
foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign
land,” he
. “We need it! Get smart!”

House Republicans panicked when they saw Trump’s initial tweet,
according to The Post. Their anxiety was abated when Rep. Devin
Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, read out
loud Trump’s second tweet, which lent his support to the

Section 702 of FISA came under scrutiny as the intelligence
community began looking into Russia’s election interference and
whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to sway the race
in his favor.

Over the past year, Trump and his backers have characterized
reports that detailed communications between Trump campaign
associates and Russians before the election as evidence of
illegal wiretapping. Trump also accused former President Barack
Obama of ordering the unlawful wiretapping of Trump Tower during
the campaign.

Neither the White House nor the US intelligence community can
legally surveil US persons without cause. But under Section 702,
the identities of Americans whom foreigners are speaking with or
about may be included — but “masked” — in intelligence reports
summarizing the communications.

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