Transcript: Rep. Mike Turner on “Face the Nation,” Dec. 4, 2022

The following is a transcript of an interview with GOP Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio that aired Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we turn now to Ohio Congressman Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Turner, good to have you here in person.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE TURNER: Thank you. Yes. It’s great to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So just yesterday, the Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said that Russia was perhaps struggling to keep up with the amount of munitions that it’s using in this war in Ukraine, the cold weather is slowing combat. The Secretary of State, though, didn’t really give hope for diplomacy at this moment. Given what you know, when will this war end?

REP. TURNER: Well, the one thing that we know is that the- the gains that Ukraine is making are real, they’re real in the battlefield. They’re real in the support that they have around the world, they have with democracies on the floor of the United Nations, in condemning this aggression by Russia. But Ukraine really has to be the one that decides that if, when, and how negotiations are entered into, and at this point, you know, they’re battling for their country. They’re losing lives for democracy. President Zelenskyy says, I was just in Ukraine, just before the elections, he says openly, he understands that he’s the frontlines for democracy, and he’s fighting an authoritarian regime. And I think, you know, obviously, Russia has to reevaluate how they look at this conflict and how Putin looks at what he has started–

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you agree with the administration on this?

REP. TURNER: I agree absolutely. That this is, this is something where, that this is a war of aggression, that Russia needs to reevaluate and to withdraw from Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve said, because you are poised to run the intelligence committees since you are at the top Republican when Republicans take control in January. Is this going to be an area where as you promised, you can take politics out of it and actually work across the aisle? What does that mean?

REP. TURNER: Right. So, you know, we’ve, when I went we went on a bipartisan trip to deliver to President Zelenskyy a message that there’s bipartisan support for Ukraine. I think there’s a number of issues that we’re going to be working on a bipartisan basis. What should the United States policy be? How do we make certain that the I serve on the Armed Service Committee and the Intelligence Committee? How do we make certain that they get the weapon systems that they need? How do we hold together this world alliance that-that we have where the world is condemning what Russia is doing? And of course, the expansion of NATO, we’re looking forward to Sweden and Finland, joining NATO, which is the opposite of what Putin believed he was going to achieve and attacking Ukraine. He’s now sees the expansion by two valuable partners with great military capabilities joining NATO.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to show our viewers some pretty extraordinary video that the Pentagon unveiled this week, a B-21 Raider. It’s the first US nuclear stealth bomber aircraft in more than 30 years. And it’s being packaged as this deterrent to Chin- to China. How concerned are you about the pace of Beijing’s nuclear development?

REP. TURNER: Extremely, and I want to co-co-commend the-the administration because they’ve been very forward leaning in releasing and declassifying information about what China is doing. They are expanding their nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons capabilities, their ICBMs that are targeting the United States. This plane is incredibly important. I served as chair of the air and land subcommittee as we, on a classified basis, began the process of working on this plane. And it gives us an additional balance, because it’s an additional delivery vehicle, additional way to combat what China’s doing–

MARGARET BRENNAN: to drop nuclear weapons?

REP. TURNER: to cause people not to drop nuclear weapons. I mean, that’s what’s so–

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s- it’s really the deterrent.

REP. TURNER: Right. It is to make certain that the balance of power is there so that people understand that the-that the cost is just too great. When China is expanding the nuclear weapons, they’re looking at United States if we blink if we don’t, if we don’t respond, and they assume that they can get first strike capabilities that not only holds us at bay, but really holds us at risk, because then you have the leader of a nuclear power that might make that miscalculation and of course, cost unfathomable lives.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You talked about being open about intelligence. I’m wondering, in your new role, will you be asking the Director of National Intelligence for a briefing and a damage assessment related to Mar-a-Lago and the documents the former president took to his private home?

REP. TURNER: That’s already in process. I mean, we’ve already talked–

MARGARET BRENNAN: It hasn’t happened. In the new Congress will you ask for it?

[CROSS TALK]

REP. TURNER:  Yes. I’ve just talked to the director of national intelligence about this particular issue. One issue that we have discussed with the director, which is very, very interesting is is that, you know, prior to the Mar-a-Lago and raid, no one in the intelligence community or in the national security community was engaged at all by the FBI to request an assessment as to what the risk of the documents that had been surrendered from Mar-a-Lago,or that might have been at Mar-a-Lago, or that were even perceived as being missing– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you the Justice Department–

[CROSS TALK]

REP. TURNER: This was just the FBI and the and the archivist, which is basically a glorified librarian, coming together and deciding to raid Mar-a-Lago. Now-

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you’re not downplaying that taking classified material to your private home is a problem particularly for the commander in chief.

REP. TURNER: Absolutely not. There were just- there were other options that the FBI had versus the escalation that- that they did. That’s certainly going to be one of the questions we have. The Director of National Intelligence indicated they have conducted their risk assessment, and they are prepared to give both of our committees on the Senate and the House presentations as to what those are– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have a sense of when or what the scale of the damage is? 

REP. TURNER: At this point it’s just a scheduling issue. We just had a meeting with the director, but both Sen. Warner, myself and Adam Schiff. And as they look to how do we get everybody scheduled together, and those who’ve done the assessment, because again, it’s not just a director that will be coming–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

REP. TURNER: They’ll have to come forward to give us, what did they see, what did they have, and how do they perceive the threat that may or may not have existed from some of these documents.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This may seem a basic question, but all elected leaders swear to uphold the Constitution. Does calling for its suspension, is that disqualifying for a presidential candidate?

REP. TURNER: It’s certainly not consistent–

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know why I’m asking this question?

REP. TURNER: I do. It’s certainly not consistent with the oath that we all take.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So yesterday, the front runner for the Republican nomination, the standard bearer for your party, posted on Truth Social, and we know he lost the 2020 election, but continues to claim he did not. “A massive fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” Should the standard bearer for the Republican Party, the front runner for the nomination for the presidency for your party in 2024, say this?

REP. TURNER: Well, I you know, I, first of all, I vehemently disagree with- with the statement that Trump has made. Trump has made, you know, 1,000 statements in which I disagree. There is a political process that has to go forward before anybody–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Constitutional conservatives are pretty clear about where they value the constitution– 

REP. TURNER: Exactly. There has to be–

[CROSSTALK]

REP. TURNER: You do get picked questions, but I do get to pick my answer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know. I’m trying to get you to answer the question I’m asking.

REP. TURNER: There is a political process that has to go for before anybody’s a front runner or anybody is a- even the candidate for the party–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you condemn him saying something like this?

REP. TURNER:  Absolutely. And I believe answering your question that people certainly are going to take into consideration a statement like this as they evaluate a candidate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I also have to ask you about the other statement and the people that he has been spending time with, a neo-Nazi, pro-Putin misogynist, named Nick Fuentes came to have dinner with the former president at his home alongside Kanye West who just this past week, praised Hitler.

REP. TURNER: This is atrocious. This is- everybody I think- everyone both condemns and is shocked and is as disgusted and nauseated by the fact that we’re even in this year, in 2022, having anyone that would make statements like that, nevertheless, have anybody who would engage in a conversation with someone who’s having- making statements like that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So having classified documents at the same place where they’re having the dinner– 

REP. TURNER: Well that’s- that’s not–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –which we’re not necessarily securely held, and they’re government records that should be in government property, all those things together, it’s a problem.

REP. TURNER: Well, as you know, the FBI raided his home, and I suppose there are not classified documents there. But all of these are issues of judgment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president is saying he doesn’t know who he’s having dinner with at that home.

REP. TURNER: These are all issues of judgment and a political process has to go forward. And I believe voters are smart, and they’ll take those things into consideration in a political process.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman, thank you for coming on and answering questions. We’ll be back in just one minute so stay with us.

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