Former House Intel Chair Mike Rogers Weighs In On The Polarization Of The Committee
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The impeachment inquiry is going public. Today we learned that two key witnesses will appear under oath and in open session next week. The House Intelligence Committee will interview Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, on November 13. Two days later, it will be Marie Yovanovitch's turn. She's the former ambassador to Ukraine.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
So that is one development involving the House Intelligence Committee. Here's another. Republicans are moving to swap one or more of President Trump's most vocal defenders onto the committee. And that is the starting point for our conversation with Mike Rogers, former Republican congressman and former chair of the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, welcome back.
MIKE ROGERS: (Unintelligible).
KELLY: So one of the names in play here is Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, who is among the most conservative members of the House and, as we mentioned, a staunch defender of the president's. What is your reaction?
ROGERS: Listen; I've been fairly vocal about, worried about the direction of the committee. It has really important work overseeing the 17 intelligence agencies. I was open about saying this shouldn't be a place that handles the impeachment. It's really not the committee to do that. And the fact that they're going to switch out folks who are there clearly not for the purposes of intelligence oversight just further deteriorates the committee's credibility. And that's not a great thing when you need to have very sensitive conversations about the ongoing operations of our American intelligence services.
KELLY: Let me bring in the perspective of Jim Jordan. We have a little bit of tape of how he is defending this potential move.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JIM JORDAN: I just want to help our team. I want to help the country see the truth here that President Trump didn't do anything wrong, and what the Democrats are doing is partisan. It's unfair. And frankly, it's ridiculous, particularly the way they went about with these secret meetings in the bunker in the basement of the Capitol.
KELLY: So Mike Rogers, he says he just wants to help our team. And it's that reference to our team that might throw some people who know that if you go back to the 1970s, when the intelligence committees were created, they were specifically designed to be nonpartisan. And part of the deal was House leaders were supposed to choose members with that quality in mind.
ROGERS: Oh, absolutely. And when I was chairman, I worked very, very close - matter of fact, we didn't say chairman and vice chairman. We called each other partners in this effort. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland - a great guy, a great American and great patriot. I was a Republican from Michigan. And he was a former prosecutor. I was a former FBI agent. And we just sat down and said, listen - and there was fighting and partisanship before we took the reins, as well - and said, we just can't do that. This - the issues that we deal with here are too important. We can have disagreements. We can work through them. But at the end of the day, we need to move forward in a bipartisan way.
And we did that, and we're proud of that work. And candidly, it fell apart when we left. And what you have now...
KELLY: You left in 2015, I should inject here.
ROGERS: 2015 - you know, this - that was when the chairman that came after me ran up to the White House and had - with his hair on fire - and had information that he had to share with the White House. I mean, all of these...
KELLY: Devin Nunes, who is now the ranking Republican on the committee.
ROGERS: (Laughter) You're so good at this, Mary Louise.
KELLY: (Laughter) I'm just filling in the blanks here.
ROGERS: (Laughter) I know.
KELLY: I mean, it's fascinating to hear you, as a Republican who has run the committee. It sounds like what you're saying is this is naked partisan politics.
ROGERS: All of - and both sides. This is not just one-sided. I do disagree with the fact that they had meetings that they didn't allow Republicans in. It gives the perception, right or wrong, that this is a partisan investigation, number one. And again, number - really, the most important thing is this committee should not be leading the impeachment. You - everything else...
KELLY: You're saying the partisanship is going both ways. It's not limited to Republicans.
ROGERS: Oh, absolutely. I do believe that. I mean, Republicans have acted poorly. Democrats have acted poorly in this whole process. And doing it off of the Intelligence Committee, the one place in the entire Congress that you want to operate in a bipartisan way, is just very concerning to me.
KELLY: If I can squeeze in quick reaction to one or two quick developments this week - Gordon Sondland's revised testimony - is it a game-changer? This is the ambassador to the EU who says his memory has been refreshed. He now says not only was there a quid pro quo, but he is the one who delivered it.
ROGERS: I'm not sure it's a - I'm not sure, exactly, how to take that. I think they had a change of heart. I think this is a strategy change on behalf of the White House to say, yes, that's right. Our goal here was, you guys have to help us clean up corruption if you're going to get us our money, which, by the way, happens in a lot of places around the world. We do go in and say, without certain anti-corruption activities, you don't get U.S. dollars. To me, that was a strategic change.
KELLY: When - I'm sorry to interrupt. When you say this was a White House strategy change, I mean, this was Ambassador Sondland who changed his testimony. Do you have any reason to know that that was at the behest of the White House?
ROGERS: I just - I find it suspect that he would now come in and have that change of heart without some kind of grander understanding of why he might do that. Maybe. Maybe he had a change of heart. Maybe he said, no, this is - I mean, maybe his recollection did change. As an old FBI guy, I can tell you that rarely happens in that way in an investigation like that.
KELLY: That is former Republican congressman and former chair of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers.
Thanks so much for your time.
ROGERS: Thanks for having me.
KELLY: [POST-BROADCAST CLARIFICATION] And we want to clarify one point we just heard there from Mike Rogers. He referenced meetings that republicans weren’t allowed to attend. Republicans serving on the three committees conducting the impeachment inquiry have been included in closed door sessions. Other members of congress, both Republican and Democrat, not on the relevant committees, have not been included as is the regular practice for committee interviews.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.