“The president was out of the country and somebody mischaracterized his positions. I’ll leave it up to y’all to figure that out,” Paul added.
Paul said Trump is “very supportive” of his amendment to prevent the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act from targeting Americans, a reflection of conservative unease over the way the Trump campaign was surveilled in 2016.
“FISA warrants should not be issued against Americans,” Paul said on Thursday afternoon. “Americans shouldn’t be spied on by a secret court. I think he agrees completely with that and that’s the amendment that I’m going to insist on. I’m not letting anything go easy without a vote on my amendment.”
Paul’s conversation with Trump could blow up plans by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to extend those expiring authorities, which McConnell said was his preference on Tuesday. It also suggests a fresh schism between Barr and Trump after Trump weighed in on the sentencing of his longtime ally Roger Stone, a development that Barr said made his job “impossible.”
Most Senate Republicans want Barr to stay in his job and many of them agree with his position on the FISA courts. Paul voted against Barr’s confirmation as attorney general, the only Republican to do so.
Barr suggested to Republicans that he could make some of the changes sought by Republicans, including to blunt the ability of the FISA courts to target Americans, through new regulations. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he planned to talk about the matter on Friday and try and suggest a compromise.
“The best thing is for me to try and find out what happened and see if we need to do more than the attorney general’s done. So maybe an extension for a period of time that allows us to come back toward the end of the year, maybe would work,” Graham said.
But that’s unlikely to satisfy Paul, who said he doesn’t care whether the provisions expire anyway since he opposes the Patriot Act to begin with.
Barr “wants to do just his own regulatory reforms, some of which are good but are not enough. We have to fix the law,” Paul said. “His tenure could be six months and then the next attorney general changes it. This is an inflection point where we should change the law.”