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Connect to Congress: Rep. Russell on his new Waste Watch, FISA and DACA

Rep. Steve Russell. (KOKH)

With a new “Waste Watch” report and a new round of controversial comments coming from the President, Oklahoma Congressman Steve Russell stopped by FOX 25 to talk about the issues affecting Oklahomans in the nation’s capital.

WASTE WATCH

The series of reports have highlighted questionable government spending throughout federal agencies. Representative Russell says his reports have led to legislation that saves $4 Billion.

“The level of stupidity on how we spend money is amazing,” Russell told FOX 25.

The latest installment of focuses on the spending in the Department of Agriculture. Russell said the findings are intended to serve as a wake-up call to federal agencies.

“By highlighting it and exposing it you would think you would have some self-correction,” Russell said, “If not, then you have to put the amendments in to say this is prohibited. We're just not going to allow this in the future.”

You can read more about what was found and the entire Waste Watch report by clicking this link.

IMMIGRATION TALKS

“I think we are all stunned by comments, that just don't help the process,” Russell said of President Donald Trump’s reported vulgar remarks about some countries from which immigrants arrive. “It doesn't help anything, it doesn't help our country,” Russell said.

Russell’s stance on immigration is sometimes at odds with other Republican lawmakers.

“I can speak for myself, three of my children came here on green cards and are immigrants,” Russell said. “I just have a different perspective they came from very poor circumstances, being orphans with not much of a future, so I guess my perspective is, I look at it differently.”

Russell was an early supporter to finding a legislative solution to the so-called “Dreamers,” or children who were brought to the country by their parents and now lack legal status. He said he hopes the focus on the President’s comments does not derail progress made towards finding a solution for the immigration problems.

“Hopefully we can be adults and we can shake this off and do what still has to be done,” Russell told FOX 25, “Ii hope that apologies can be made and we can move on and we still have to solve the problem.

As far as what should happen with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, Russell believes it needs to be part of a more comprehensive immigration bill that includes increases to border security. However, he does not believe the DACA children should face deportation.

“I think the first thing you have to do is a temporary legal status,” Russell said. He said the current plans would allow those DACA participants to apply for permanent residency which would place them on the right track to apply for citizenship or join the military. He said any such programs would be based on individual merit.

“If they're doing what they're doing now, and in the social security system and paying taxes they're working they are in a legal status they could make application for permanent residency.”

SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM

One of the controversial votes recently in congress was an extension of the federal surveillance programs. Russell joined the rest of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation in voting for the renewal of the programs run by the National Security Agency, or NSA. He also voted against an amendment that promised reform of some of the data collection and surveillance tactics.

“Even within our own congress there is a lot of confusion about FISA and the 702 program,” Russell said. “FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] is different than the 702 program,” Russell explained of his vote on the specific section of the act he voted to renew, “the 702 program is specifically targeted towards foreign nationals.”

“Has FISA been abused?” Russell asked rhetorically, “Yes, but not in the 702. Once again people are confused on this issue to include many of my colleagues. What i suggest they do is go to the NSA and get briefed on the program.”

Russell said he believes abuses of FISA should be investigated and action taken, but the does not believe in eliminating the entire program. He said classified briefings have shown him proof of plots against the United States that have been thwarted using FISA and the 702 program.

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