Mike Rogers wants to ‘move the needle on the 2016 elections’


House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.)(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) surprised his colleagues Friday by announcing plans not to run for reelection, and to quit and instead to host a nationally syndicated radio program.

Rogers discussed his decision Friday with The Washington Post. A partial transcript -- edited for length and clarity -- appears below.

Question: This is a big surprise. How did this come about?

Rogers: They [Cumulus Media] started talking to me about a year and a half ago, and it was nothing I was seeking out, and it just gelled this year. When I look at the political dialogue in the United States, I’m very, very worried about the isolationist lack of American exceptionalism talk happening, going into a 2016 election.

This just presented a very large national platform in which they were going to give me the opportunity to have those discussions and give me the chance to talk to people in their cars and living rooms and homes every single day. That’s a rare opportunity indeed and a very difficult decision for me, but it was one of those opportunities that wasn’t going to be there in two years. My theory is, if I can move the needle on the 2016 elections on the conversation and the dialogue about America’s future, then I’m equally as excited about that as I am about the work I’m doing right now.

You mentioned 2016 -- does this mean you’re jumping into the race?

This gives me an opportunity to talk to millions of Americans every single day. I’m excited about that opportunity. I want to build a large audience, and I think they’re going to find compelling, interesting radio in ways they haven’t before.

You mentioned earlier some of the disagreements you have with other Republicans on national security and foreign policy. Care to elaborate?

In the era of celebrity politicians, it is difficult to have substantive dialogue. I think sometimes it’s been harmful, some of the biggest casualties in all of that have been the facts. Hopefully we’re going to continue our education on what actually happened moving forward, and what agencies do and don’t do. So I’m going to continue to work on that, it’s just too important for the United States and our national security to not have a fact-based discussion and then move on from there.

These are life and death decisions, these are life and death programs, and I think we owe it to the American people to make sure that we do it based on those facts, not based on an exaggerated political position for political gain. It’s unfortunate, and a lot of people have made a lot of political profit on this stuff. I’m going to continue my education campaign, allow people exposure to the facts, I continue to encourage members to read classified reports that would help them inform their decisions. Sometimes some of the most vociferous people who are opposed to this policy and talk about these things that are inaccurate don’t read classified reports. So the good news is, I’ll have a great platform to have really interesting discussions on all of that.

We've heard in the past few hours from some of your colleagues in the House Republican conference, who've expressed concerns with how your committee investigated the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya. There's some suggestion from them privately that the committee might not have been as aggressive with some administration officials as they would have liked. Care to respond?

I find that interesting. We have been the most aggressive committee, we’ve had the most hearings, the most investigative time from my investigators. I’m having the third hearing with the deputy and then acting CIA director Mike Morrell, and it's going to be open. Part of the problem has been that there are conspiracy theorists who wanted us to find conspiracy A, B, and C, and I ran a very aggressive fact-based investigation. I didn't go into it -- as an old FBI agent you don’t get into it with a conclusion, but a premise.

And by the way, all the reports that you saw, all the interim reports, that all came from our investigation off the Intel Committee. I take that with a grain of salt, it’s been the most aggressive investigation. I'll keep going with it until we get to the logical conclusion.

You're very close with House Speaker John A. Boehner. If you're leaving and his friends Reps. Tom Latham, Doc Hastings and Sen. Saxby Chambliss are leaving, does this signal that you're all getting out right ahead of him?

I’m going to let you talk to the speaker about his future plans. I am close to him, and I think in a really difficult environment he’s been able to move the ball a little bit, which is not an easy thing to do. He’ll make the decision that’s right for him and his family.

How much is Cumulus going to pay you to do this? Six figures? Seven figures?

You’ll have to talk to Cumulus about all of this. I appreciate you asking, but I have to send you along to the company.

[Note: Cumulus issued a news release Friday announcing the deal and saying that Rogers "has been instrumental in helping to shape many of the most important issues and events of our time and will play a significant role in our expanding content platform." A spokesman declined to comment further on details of the deal.]

From where will you host the show?

Looks like we’re going to do it from Washington.

When was the first time you ever appeared on the radio?

The first time I was on the radio was at my small college radio station. Candidly, it was a rough beginning, so I hope I’ve improved in the last 25 years or so.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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