Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, on Friday called on President Trump to postpone signing a Congress-approved bill reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act until the contents of a House Intelligence Committee memo on alleged surveillance abuses.
“While I cannot comment on contents of the classified memo that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released yesterday, we can say that we find its conclusions extremely concerning,” Poe said in a statement, referring to the release of the report to House members only after a party-line vote within the intelligence panel.
Poe, who is not a member of the intelligence panel, added his voice to a chorus of fellow Republicans calling for the memo's public release, despite opposition from Democrats. He said legislation giving six more years of life to the key counterterrorism surveillance tool that passed both chambers of Congress this month should be put on hold by Trump.
“I believe that the information that is contained in the top-secret memo would have been critical to know prior to the reauthorization of FISA. Members of Congress who voted to re-authorize FISA did not have adequate information about how the program has been used to cast their vote. I urge President Trump to postpone signing the FISA reauthorization into law and urge this information is made public," Poe said.
Poe's request went unheeded, however, as Trump announced on Twitter Friday afternoon that he signed the bill.
Trump last week complained yet again, without proof, about the Obama administration using the FISA provision to justify the "unmasking" of members of his campaign who were caught up in the surveillance of foreign nationals before changing his tune to one that reflected his administration's support for the reauthorization of the measure.
Poe had supported an unsuccessful amendment to FISA to address Trump's concerns, as well as those of some Republican and Democratic lawmakers, about privacy protections for U.S. citizens, and called its defeat a "loss for freedom and the Fourth Amendment."
“The USA Rights Act would have reformed Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to end warrantless backdoor searches by the government of Americans' communications (calls, emails, texts) that are routinely swept up under a program designed to spy on foreign targets, not Americans," Poe said last week.
In what appeared to be an explanation for his decision to sign the bill Friday, despite his seemingly contradictory tweets last week, Trump said: "This is NOT the same FISA law that was so wrongly abused during the election. I will always do the right thing for our country and put the safety of the American people first!”
The question of whether the memo is publicly released will ultimately be up to the president.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, explained the process for releasing the memo on Thursday.
"Here is the process: Chairman [Devin] Nunes in the Intelligence Committee in the House he can he bring the committee back together. They can have a vote. If the majority of the committee votes to release these documents, the executive branch gets a certain amount of time to review them. If the executive branch gives the thumbs up they go public," he told Fox News' Sean Hannity. "This could happen real quick. Chairman Nunes is committed to getting this information to the public."
Jordan's Freedom Caucus colleague, Rep. Mark Meadows, asked House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to authorize a vote on releasing the memo, and Ryan chose to defer to Nunes for the decision, Politico reported.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, called the memo a "profoundly misleading set of talking points."
“[T]he Majority voted today on a party-line basis to grant House Members access to a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation,” Schiff, D-Calif., in a statement. “Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI.”