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Transcript: Rep. Mike Turner on "Face the Nation," April 16, 2023

Turner on Pentagon leaks
Rep. Mike Turner says there's "damage that's been done" in Pentagon leak 07:05

The following is a transcript of an interview with Rep. Mike Turner, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, that aired on "Face the Nation" on April 16, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the Republican Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Ohio Congressman Mike Turner. Good to have you back. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have any sense yet of the scale of the damage caused by the leak of this classified material by apparently this 21-year-old airman who has been arrested?

REP. TURNER: Not completely, but clearly there's damage that's done. I mean, we have documents classified because we don't want them to get in the hands of our adversaries, and these have been widely circulated. So obviously, these are damaging both the United States and to our allies. You know, what's troubling here is, you know, when you look at the documents that were circulated, that without- without a- the care of its handling, these relate to actual real people, the marks on maps are real people, and they can impact people's lives, and that's certainly our concern.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden said when it came to the content of the messages and information he wasn't concerned, you seem to disagree with that?

REP. TURNER: Well, I can tell you, President Zelenskyy certainly would be concerned and so what are other allies. When- whenever we're trusted with information, we're working in partnership with someone, you know, our intelligence gathering, our intelligence information if it is released can represent a vulnerability to them. So obviously, it's an issue that's troubling, and that needs to be addressed. In the- the outcome for the Ukraine conflict, though, it's early enough, and these are static documents, meaning they're pictures of a exact period of time, and mitigation can happen, people can change their strategies, and that can change the outcome.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I asked this question to Senator Kelly, about the concern of Ukraine running through his ammunition stocks too quickly.

REP. TURNER: Right. So, some of these documents would be in the- in the form of management documents. When you look at inventories or depleting inventories, they too, are static. What they show is a to-do list and what we need to do and our allies need to do to help Ukraine to replenish those. It doesn't indicate that they have no other sources and that in fact, they'll- they will both run out and be completely open and vulnerable to Russia.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. So not necessarily- it would be a leap to say Russia will have air dominance on this date, because they run out of this thing. On the leak itself, the individual who is accused here, Mr. Teixeira, there's video that circulated of him saying racist things, shooting guns, anti-semitic things. He's apparently posted these things on social media, and they were there, undetected for a long period of time. What part of this needs to change? Because clearly the protocols failed.

REP. TURNER: Right, absolutely. And if you look at the actual complaint and affidavit that was filed when he was arraigned, you- you have the- the also admission from the Department of Defense, that they are able to track his movements. So clearly, he was having access to documents that he should not have had access to, and someone should have been paying attention, tapping him on the shoulder and ending that access. But in this instance, as you just indicated, you know, through life patterns that were clearly signals that he would- might be a likely leaker of information in the future, and then also, the access that he was having to this information should have been cut off. He should have never been having access to this level of classified information that can hurt United States,

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he was working basically in tech support. It wasn't necessarily analyzing this information.

REP. TURNER: Right, he had no reason- there was no need to know for him of the information that he was accessing. And the Department of Defense admits in the affidavit that they had the ability to track him. That's gonna be the questions my committee is gonna be having. So, we're gonna be having hearings on this and what we need to do- and from the 9/11 Commission, we learned that we needed to more widely disseminate classified information so that people had actionable intelligence that they could piece together puzzles. Clearly, we've gone too far in where we have an instance where someone in Massachusetts who's looking at documents with respect to war plans in Ukraine, and the Department of Defense knows, and that's what our committee is gonna be looking at is, how do we make certain we make changes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So to make those changes, I want to ask you to clarify this, because there are some conservatives saying things, like Tucker Carlson has, your colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene, in defense of this individual, this 21-year-old man. She called him essentially heroic, white male, Christian, anti-war, an enemy to the Biden regime. She said he told the truth about troops being on the ground in Ukraine and a lot more.

REP. TURNER: Well, first of all, let's be clear, there are- there are no U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine, other than the troops that are normally at an embassy, protecting the embassy. We do not have boots on the ground--

MARGARET BRENNAN: They are not on the battlefield.

REP. TURNER: We do not have- have- have troops on the ground. So, it's absolutely incorrect assumption from the documents that- that this individual leaked. The other aspect is, he's guilty of, if he's brought through this process, and he's found guilty, it will be of espionage, it's of being a traitor to your country. That's not someone who- to look up to. That is someone who has compromised his country and has certainly compromised our allies. That's not the oath that he took. That's not the job that he took.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. you are in the Gang of Eight, that small group of lawmakers that gets access to some of the most classified information, including the documents that were found at the residence of President Biden, President Trump and former Vice President Pence. Have you looked at the documents? And are your questions answered?

REP. TURNER: Right. No, so the Department of Justice has not been forthcoming in this. And they've been somewhat disingenuous and certainly both the House and the Senate are gonna have to address this. One, the documents that were delivered to Congress are not complete. And secondly, they don't identify whose documents they were, whether they came from the trove of Biden's behind the Corvette, or whether they came from Mar a Lago. That obviously has to be addressed--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You can figure that out through the timing--

REP. TURNER: Timing ought to be able to tell us but still at the same time to deliver those documents, without even designating whose documents they were, clearly shows an unwillingness to be working closely with Congress. And this also, it's incomplete. I can tell you this, and the reviews that we've had, so far have indexes that do include the documents, there's no nuclear codes here, there's no- no one had anything that was an extreme imminent threat to the United States--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you seen everything? Or--

REP. TURNER: We've seen the- the index of them. We've gotten some of the documents delivered to us. But the Department of Justice really needs to come clean. They need to deliver the documents to Congress, they promised them to us, and they need to work with us so that we can get an assessment of what happened here. There are laws that need to be changed so that we can more protect our classified documents and those who handle them and so we need them to work with us. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: The White House gave access to the classified after-action report on Afghanistan about a week ago. Have you seen it yet? 

REP. TURNER: I have.


REP. TURNER: And the well, so, the- I'm very concerned that the Biden administration is looking more for fault, blame- and blame than really action items as to what we need to do. What clearly happened here, in the abrupt departure from Afghanistan, is a number of mistakes were made. We can only make certain that we don't repeat those mistakes, if we're able to- to really understand them. Congress has put together an Afghan commission that is reviewing our time there and our exit. I think that's going to be a very helpful avenue also of getting understanding of what happened, and how do we not do this again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, it's good to have you here. There's a lot to get through and we hope to have you back soon. We'll be back in a moment.

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