President Donald Trump did not post contradictory tweets Thursday about the controversial FISA surveillance program — including prior claims it was used to spy on his campaign team — as the House voted on extending the effort, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
"We don't think there was a conflict at all," Sanders told reporters at the daily briefing. "The president fully supports the 702 and is happy to see it pass the House [on Thursday], but does have some overall concern with the FISA program more generally.
"The president doesn't feel we should have to choose between protecting American citizens and protecting their civil liberties," she added.
"He wants to do both. That's what he's going to do.
"We don't see any contradiction or confusion in that," she said.
Sanders also insisted no agreement has been reached on legislation to protect Dreamers, despite an announcement by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake that a bipartisan group of six senators had settled on a framework.
On the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the House voted 256-164 to extend Section 702 of the law the through 2023.
The program allows the National Security Agency to intercept calls or emails from suspected foreign terrorists outside the U.S.
Hours before the vote, however, President Trump posted a tweet claiming his campaign team had been spied upon during the election:
About an hour later, Trump then posted what appeared to be support for the program:
The second tweet referenced claims by some Republicans that Obama administration officials might have improperly "unmasked" the names of Americans — possibly including some of Trump's own associates — whose conversations or names were incidentally picked up in foreign surveillance.
While the FISA reauthorization bill was not directly related to unmasking issue, the vote sought to extend a law first adopted in 2008 to legalize what had until then been secret wiretapping without court warrants that began under former President George W. Bush.
The current version of the law expires after Jan. 19.
At the briefing, Sanders beat back reporters' questions that the tweets conflicted and demonstrated that President Trump did not understand the FISA law.
She noted the Director of National Intelligence earlier Thursday released new "unmasking" guidelines for additional clarity.
"This is top of mind for the president and for the administration," Sanders said. "He has a full understanding."
Sanders did not refute Trump's previous claims about surveillance at Trump Tower during the campaign, saying only: "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 also slammed NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson for a "completely ridiculous" premise in her question asserting the tweets were confusing.
"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.
"The president supports the 702. But he has some very strong concerns about the FISA program more generally."
"You are saying that the president's tweet this morning was in your view not at all confusing and not at all contradictory?" Jackson asked.
"It wasn't confusing to me," Sanders said. "I'm sorry if it was to you."
On immigration, Sanders insisted "there has not been a deal reached yet" on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields more than 700,000 illegals brought to the United States as children from deportation.
Flake, the Republican senator who is retiring after his current term expires, said a framework on an immigration deal had been reached.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, another GOP member of the six-member group, however, said no deal had been reached.
President Trump said Wednesday he would not sign any DACA legislation that did not include any funding for a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration.
"However, we still think we can get there," Sanders said Thursday of a DACA deal. "We are very focused on trying to make sure that that happens.
"The president has been clear about what his priorities are in that process.
"We are going to continue working with members of the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, to make sure that we try to get that deal done."
Asked about the Russia investigation, Sanders said Trump and the White House continued to cooperate with Robert Mueller, despite the president saying Wednesday that "I'll speak to attorneys" on possibly interviewing with the special counsel.
Last June, Trump said he was "100 percent" willing provide his version of events under oath, and he would be "glad to" speak to Mueller about it.
Sanders told reporters "nothing has changed" with Trump's latest position.
"We'll continue to be fully cooperative with the special counsel," she continued. "However, the president's attorneys will discuss this with the special counsel, not reporters."
Sanders also ripped attacks President Trump removed Florida from the list of offshore drilling sites as a political favor to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a longtime ally, amid complaints from other state chief executives.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last week announced a five-year offshore drilling plan that would open 90 percent of the nation's offshore reserves to development by private companies.
"I'm not aware of any political favor that that would have been part of," Sanders said. "So, no."
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