Matt Gaetz writes letter to Adam Schiff asking him to co-sponsor his FISA judge bill from 2013

March 2, 2018
In The News

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., wrote a letter to House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff imploring the California Democrat to join him in co-sponsoring a very familiar bill.

The legislation, introduced by Gaetz this week, would give the president the power to appoint Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act judges, after which they would need to be confirmed by the Senate, taking the authority away from the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The bill is also the same one introduced by Schiff in 2013, while Barack Obama was president. Gaetz says he has made no changes to the text and that he would have supported the 2013 bill, which never got a vote, if he had been in Congress at the time.

"I know that these ideas are not new to you, because in 2013, you introduced H.R. 2761, the Presidential Appointment of FISA Court Judges Act," Gaetz said in the letter dated March 1. "Your bill empowered the President to appoint FISA judges, subject to Senate confirmation. It was good legislation then, and had I been in Congress at that time, I would have gladly cosponsored it."

Gaetz is not a member of the House Intelligence Committee, but he has been very vocal in recent months about cracking down on potential alleged FISA abuses by the U.S. government to spy on former Trump campaign official Carter Page, detailed in a House Intelligence Committee memo released last month.

"Oversight of FISA is even more necessary today," he said.

Schiff, meanwhile, has pushed back on the claims made in that memo and saw a Democratic rebuttal memo released over the weekend.

Gaetz said Chief Justice John Roberts is "an extraordinarily fair jurist," but the power he possesses in regards to FISA judge appointees "should not be concentrated in the hands of one person, no matter how capable that person may be."

Back in 2013, Schiff expressed similar concerns. "In light of the significance of the FISA Court opinions, their classified nature and their virtual unreviewability, the American people — through the Senate — should have the opportunity to probe nominees on their Fourth Amendment views and other key matters," he said of his bill at the time.

Though Gaetz has repeatedly said his overtures to Schiff are bipartisan in nature, he has also made it clear that he believes President Trump, who has clashed with Schiff on a number of occasions, deserves to have the same "powers" as Obama would have had if Schiff's bill had been passed and signed into law five years ago.

"If it was good enough to give President Obama these powers, it’s good enough to give President Trump these powers!", Gaetz said in a tweet.

Schiff's office did not immediately return a request for comment when asked if the congressman might take Gaetz up on his offer.