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Transcript: House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Turner on "Face the Nation," June 16, 2024

Turner: Information on terrorist threats needs to be declassified
Rep. Mike Turner says White House needs to "declassify" information on terrorist threats 08:49

The following is a transcript of an interview with House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Turner, Republican of Ohio, on "Face the Nation" that aired on June 16, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to begin with the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Ohio Congressman Mike Turner. Welcome back to Face the Nation.

REP. TURNER: Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chair Turner, last week, as you know, there were federal immigration arrests of these eight individuals with suspected ties to ISIS. They were rounded up in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York. They traveled from Central Asia, Tajikistan, across the southern border into the US. Do you have any indication that there is an act of terror plot?

REP. MIKE TURNER: Well, I'm, Margaret- I'm your- I can neither confirm nor deny all the details that you've just reported. But what's important about these reports, and what we're seeing, especially in conjunction with Director Wray's public statements that we are at the highest level of a possible terrorist threat, that the administration's policies have, absolutely, they're directly related to threats to Americans. These are no longer speculative, no longer hypothetical. And we have actual administration officials stepping forward. And certainly our committee and our committee members have con- concurred on the intelligence that we're seeing that as a result of the administration's policies allowing people to cross the border unvetted. We have terrorists that are actively working inside the United States that are a threat to Americans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the issue, as we understand it from our reporting, is that there was vetting but that the vetting didn't turn up any derogatory information. Doesn't that indicate that there's a broader problem with the system that Congress would also have to address?

REP. TURNER: Well, Margaret, you know, there are those who are vetted and- and in the vetting process. They- there is not evidence the United States currently has that they're actively engaged in terrorist plotting or engaged with terrorist groups organizations. And this administration, by their own policy, are then allowing those individuals in instead of fully vetting them, fully understanding what the risk is the United States and for the fact that they're letting them in, and there they are- they're entering the United States through the southern border illegally. And that's what the threat is. That's what Director Wray is identifying, and is bringing forward. This administration's policies are directly resulting in people who were in the United States illegally, who have ties to terrorist groups and organizations, and this is a threat.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The US has already been in a heightened threat environment. But this past week, our CBS colleague and the former deputy CIA director Mike Morel wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs, warning that the United States faces a serious threat of terrorist attack in the months ahead. He called on Congressional Intelligence Committee, like the one you chair, to have public hearings with the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center. Will you commit to doing that?

REP. TURNER: But we have. In fact, that the testimony that you just played--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Public unclassified information from those individuals--

REP. TURNER: --The- the testimony that you just played of Director Wray was a result of the intelligence committees, including mine, Director Wray was testifying before my committee and said exactly the same thing publicly. Of the threat, what we have done and continue to do, and what this administration needs to be held to, is that they need to declassify the information of the terrorist threats that they're seeing so that there can be a public discourse concerning what the administration's risk and threats are. You know, this was notable and expected as a result of the Biden administration's policy, have an open southern border, and we are seeing it absolutely across the country. The- and my- my committee has been open, my members have been open and publicly discussing this threat and pointing the finger directly at the administration's policies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, as you know, the administration points back at Congress saying they asked for more authorities and Congress refused to act. But I want to ask you about the Intelligence Committee. You've tried to keep it nonpartisan, as you've said on this program. Speaker Johnson, though recently decided, as you know, to add two congressmen, Scott Perry and Dr. Ronny Jackson, to your committee, reportedly at the behest of Donald Trump. One of your members, Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, referred to Perry as a threat to intelligence oversight, quote, "he will be on the very committee that oversees the FBI while he is directly under investigation by this very agency." Do you think that is a disqualifying conflict of interest?

REP. TURNER: Well, being concerned obviously, about that issue, and being the chairman, I contacted the IC to see whether or not there was an issue that, you know, in due diligence from our committee that we needed to resolve or address. They indicated that there was not an- a- an ongoing or continuing issue, or even a current issue that we needed to address--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --The FBI told you that?

REP. TURNER: The issue- I think here that's most important- the IC told us that. I think what's very important here is that the speaker makes this appointment and then what he's done since. The speaker has absolutely committed himself to these two individuals, following the rules, not only the laws, both of them have military experience, both of them have had access to classified information before and there's been no reports of any incidences of their handle- mishandling of classified information. The speaker has met with our committee, Republican members, he has spoken directly to Jim Himes. We've had a meeting with Mr. Perry, myself and the speaker, where all of these assurances have been made. But the Speaker has said this that he's going to continue to monitor the situation if there's any indication of anything improper happening, that he will intervene. And I believe the speaker will assert leadership here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And withdraw that nomination potentially. Well, look, I- Scott Perry has come out and took aim at you, as you know, because he said, if he gets on this committee, he'll conduct actual oversight, not blind obedience to some facets of our intelligence community. And he claimed they're spying on the American people. How do you respond to that?

REP. TURNER: He has- he has apologized. And certainly those are the types of words that you would not want from somebody who's joining a committee that is obviously very dedicated to national security and very dedicated to working on a bipartisan way. I think that upon him joining the committee, and looking at the work that both he gets to do and the work that we're doing, that he'll be absolutely satisfied that he can play a role to- in the work that we're doing for national security.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I understand you said you've- you received assurances about their ability to handle classified information that they'll have access to but as you know, Dr. Ronny Jackson was demoted by the Navy because the Pentagon inspector general report found that he had been taking sedatives while providing medical care to two US presidents. That kind of compromising behavior would be disqualifying for most people when it comes to receiving a security clearance or having any access to the nation's secrets.

REP. TURNER: I'm aware of those reports. As you just indicate, though, they are unrelated to the handling of classified information. And certainly, the individuals in his district believe that those issues are resolved. He presents himself to- to Congress with his military background. And we're going to be certainly working with the speaker and with the- Mr. Jackson so that- again, that he is a very productive member of our committee and if there are any incidences, the speaker has indicated that. As with Mr. Perry, that he will enforce our rules,

MARGARET BRENNAN: But there are- these seats could be filled by Republicans and national security backgrounds who don't have these kinds of compromising situations over their heads.

REP. TURNER: And there certainly was a broad range of individuals who- who sought these seats.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were with Donald Trump when he was on Capitol Hill this past week, and he met with lawmakers. Is it true, as Congressman Matt Gaetz claims, that Mr. Trump said Ukrainians are never going to be there for us, and that he was trashing the Ukraine aid bill to Speaker Johnson's face, which Gaetz said is, quote, "so epic." Is that true? And did anyone push back?

REP. TURNER: I don't believe that the President- Trump did that. I was certainly present. He did raise issues of how the Ukraine issue is being handled. I think there's certainly enough criticism to go around the Ukrainians not being given the authority to use weapons inside Russia to hit targets that are hitting them. But I think, overall, what was important is it that Trump was very focused on what his issues were as to why he was seeking the presidency and the changes in policies and the Biden administration. Border was an issue. Energy was an issue. The economy, China and inflation were an issue. All ones where he had real, concrete things that the Biden administration did to reverse his policies that have resulted in negative consequences for a country that he intends to reverse back.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will see if he stands by Ukraine, then, if he is elected. Chair Turner, thank you--

REP. TURNER: --I believe- I- I believe he will. And certainly of the members who are strongly supporting Ukraine. We certainly believe that he will, and it certainly is essential.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chair Turner, thank you for your time this morning.

REP. TURNER: Thank you.

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