- Joshua Roberts/Reuters
- GOP Sen. Rand Paul said he will not vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr.
- Paul cited Barr’s stance on government surveillance in justifying his position.
- Barr is still expected to be confirmed later this week.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul has indicated he will not vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr due to concerns over privacy issues.
“I’m a no,” Paul said on Monday. “[Barr has] been the chief advocate for warrantless surveillance of US citizens. I think that the Fourth Amendment should protect your phone calls and your bank information. People shouldn’t be allowed to look at it without a warrant.”
The Kentucky senator has long expressed concerns over government surveillance as the US has expanded its security apparatus in recent years.
Shortly after Trump announced he’d nominate Barr for attorney general in early December, Paul made it clear he was troubled by the president’s choice.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Paul said he’s unsettled by Barr’s views on the scope of executive power.
“I’m concerned that he’s been a big supporter of the Patriot Act, which lowered the standard for spying on Americans,” Paul said of Barr. “And he even went so far as to say, you know, the Patriot Act was pretty good, but we should go much further.”
“I can tell you, the first things that I’ve learned about him being for more surveillance of Americans is very, very troubling,” Paul added.
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) December 9, 2018
The Patriot Act, signed by former President George W. Bush a little over a month after the 9/11 terror attacks, gave the federal government broad authority to conduct counterterrorism operations – including expansive surveillance powers.
The American public was largely unaware of the scale of these powers until the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013, which revealed the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of US citizens’ phone records. This sparked an ongoing debate over the balance between security and liberty, which has led to some legislative changes in recent years.
Barr, who’s already served as the US attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush, has a long history of supporting government surveillance programs. The American Civil Liberties Union recently referred to him as the “godfather of the NSA’s bulk data collection programs.” In 2003, Barr told Congress the Patriot Act was a “major step forward.”
The Republican senator, for example, voted against a number of Trump’s picks for key positions, including CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and Health and Human Services chief Alex Azar.
But despite Paul’s concerns, Barr is expected to be confirmed later this week with support from an overwhelming majority of Republican senators and at least three Democrats: Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.