White House press secretary Sarah Sanders rejected suggestions President Trump contradicted himself in two tweets about a controversial surveillance program ahead of a House vote on a bill to reauthorize it, and instead said it was the media that was unable to grasp his position on the legislation.
“It wasn’t confusing to me,” Sanders told reporters during Thursday’s White House press briefing. “I’m sorry if it was for you.”
Reporter: "The president's tweet this morning, in your view, was not at all confusing and not at all contradictory? I just want to be very clear."@PressSec: "Right, it wasn't confusing to me. I'm sorry if it was for you." https://t.co/dBT1Ar96Nb pic.twitter.com/4KteRLDfrO— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 11, 2018
In an early-morning tweet Thursday, the president indicated he had concerns with a House bill extending Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Section 702 authorizes the surveillance of non-U.S. citizens abroad.
“’House votes on controversial FISA Act today.’ 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?” Trump tweeted.
“House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.” 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?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2018
Roughly two hours later, the president sent another tweet indicating his support for the House bill, which is in line with the administration’s support for Section 702’s reauthorization.
“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 bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!” Trump tweeted.
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. We need it! Get smart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2018
The president’s two differing tweets were sent just ahead of the House’s vote on the surveillance bill, which ultimately passed.
When questioned about the two tweets, Sanders brushed off the notion they were confusing or contradictory.
“This is top of mind for the president, top of mind for the administration, and he has a full understanding,” Sanders said. “Don’t ask me. Ask Speaker [Paul] Ryan. Look to the comments that he made. He’s somebody who’s been in constant contact, been in many conversations with the president about this issue.”
Sanders also told reporters she didn’t understand why they were struggling to grasp Trump’s statement that the FISA program was used by the Obama administration to surveil members of the Trump campaign.
“There are a lot of things that indicate the surveillance that took place there, and I’m not sure what the part of confusion is on that front,” she said. “You guys have reported on it many, many times.”
During one exchange, Sanders was asked how the American people are supposed to trust lawmakers, policy makers and the president’s advisers to know Trump’s position on the surveillance program, given the president’s tweets Thursday morning.
“I think that the premise of your question is completely ridiculous and shows the lack of knowledge that you have on this process,” Sanders said. “I’ve tried several times. I’ll do it a 10th time here. Look, the president supports the 702, but he has some very strong concerns about the FISA program more generally.”
Sanders also took a dig at CNN when White House correspondent Jim Acosta asked whether there was a “cause and effect” to Trump watching a segment on Fox News about the House’s bill reauthorizing Section 702, and his initial tweet.
“I’m sure you’re disappointed he’s not watching CNN,” Sanders said.
She also suggested the network’s ratings would be higher if Trump were tuning in.