(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General William Barr split with President Donald Trump on Tuesday in a meeting with Republican lawmakers regarding proposals to reauthorize a major U.S. surveillance law, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
Sources told ABC News that a “spirited back-and-forth” occurred in the meeting between Barr and Republicans, who have advocated for a major overhaul in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which federal law enforcement officials have argued is a critical tool in their investigations of national security threats.
Barr, according to sources, told the group he supports a “clean” reauthorization of the law, though made clear in the meeting that he supports some of their proposed fixes that he believes he could implement through administrative action.
It’s a message that echoes what Barr told GOP senators during a lunch on Capitol Hill last week.
Trump and many Republicans, in contrast, have pointed to a major DOJ inspector general report released late last year that outlined abuses of the FISA program by agents investigating Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign over its connections to Russia, arguing the report identified problems that must be remedied before the surveillance law is reauthorized.
Current and former FBI officials have expressed alarm that national security investigations could potentially be endangered if the program is not reauthorized before the March 15 deadline.
“Congress can do both: reauthorize the expiring FISA provisions and undertake meaningful FISA reform efforts,” President of the FBI Agents Association Brian O’Hare said in a statement Tuesday. “We look forward to actively participating in a fulsome reform process, but we urge Congress to first reauthorize the expiring provisions. Letting them lapse puts active investigations in peril and adds additional risks to already difficult and complex investigations.”
In addition to Trump, attendees at the meeting included Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Senate Intelligence Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, N.C.; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah; House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; House Judiciary Ranking Member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.; and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.
Graham, Paul, McCarthy, Collins, Jordan, Meadows and Nunes have all made public statements advocating for implementing various changes to FISA before it is reauthorized. Others in the meeting have not been as outspoken on what they would support.
Paul tweeted following the meeting that Trump “made it abundantly clear that he will NOT accept a clean reauthorization of the Patriot Act without significant FISA reform!”
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment when asked about the meeting. The White House has not returned a request for comment.
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