Ohio hopes to mend ties between the corridors torn apart by the panel’s politically charged investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the subsequent prominence in Trump’s first impeachment trial. However, reorienting the committee toward its original mission of empowering the intelligence community requires Republicans to reckon with the bolt that current Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) keeps to the right.
It’s an atmosphere that Turner himself contributed to. Turner signed a 2019 letter calling for Schiff to be impeached, but has repeatedly refused to agree to oust the California Democrat in an interview this week — a potential sign of a breakthrough.
“Obviously Adam Schiff is not going to fundamentally change who he is. That will certainly be a complicating factor,” Turner told Politico. “But in terms of national security, I have a solid track record of being able to work across the corridor and try to advance what is important to our country. I will continue in this vein.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has chosen Turner to replace Nunes, who resigned from Congress earlier this week to take over as CEO of Trump’s new media project.
Turner, 61, generally avoids the press but is known for his sometimes violent questioning of witnesses — as well as for his penchant for reasserting neoconservative foreign-policy doctrines that Trump allies have sought to dismantle and replace with a populist, isolationist worldview. When Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested in November that the United States should not side with Ukraine in its territorial disputes with Russia, Turner tangled live with the conservative icon.
“Looks like you need a little education in Ukraine,” Turner Carlson said. Ukraine is a democracy. Russia is an authoritarian regime that seeks to impose its will on a properly elected democracy in Ukraine. We are on the side of democracy.”
In essence, the exchange emphasized that Turner’s rise represented at least a partial departure from the committee’s turbulent years.
“I think it will be clear who on the committee is committed to the transition to national security, and who are more committed to the partisan culture that Schiff promoted,” Turner told Politico this week. External threats from Iran to North Korea. “There are real opponents, and we have to focus on those.”
Turner praised Nunes for his work on the running point in the GOP’s Russia investigation. However, he did signal a passion for transcending a period that often found Republicans dismissing or avoiding questions about Trump’s more volatile leanings as well as his frequent campaign contacts with Russian citizens.
“I am coming at a time when the greatest threat to our country is our external adversaries, and making sure that we, as a nation, focus on those and live up to those occasions,” Turner said, adding that Nunes was resisting “narrations that were completely wrong” about Trump.
“Even with the ex-president’s investigation necessary, the Commission has continued to fulfill its enormous responsibility to oversee the intelligence services and maintain the security of the country,” said Schiff’s director of communications, Lauren French.
“Our work with the new member of the rating will continue, and we hope it will be fruitful,” French added. “We will not allow false personal attacks to distract us from running the important business of the Commission.”
Nunes was a devoted soldier to the Trump cause on Capitol Hill and a trusted confidant of the former president. During his final months in Congress, though, Nunes broke with the committee, skipping hearings and briefings while blocking the bipartisan intelligence authorization bill the committee had long prioritized from being passed.
Democrats and Republicans alike say they expect Turner to be more proactive than Nunes, given his interest in the commission’s primary duties — principally, oversight of the intelligence community.
“I think this year is a good opportunity for Mike and Adam Schiff to restore the relationship,” said former Representative Mike Conaway (R-TX), a former committee member who retired from Congress in 2021.
“I have a lot of respect for Mike Turner,” said Representative Jim Hymes of Connecticut, a senior Democrat on the committee who some Republicans see as a potential successor to Schiff. “He’s getting into the heart of national security in a way that I think is… really good. And I know he’s committed to that. I was sad to see him.” [Nunes] Kind of get away.”
Turner’s new position is unlike any other leadership role on the team; The Ohio Republican will join the so-called Gang of Eight, a group of senior lawmakers familiar with the most sensitive classified information. The group includes party leaders in the House and Senate, as well as senior Democrats and Republicans on both House intelligence committees.
But within the committee room, Republicans believe that serious work to restore the committee’s bipartisan nature will likely require a complete change of leadership that replaces Schiff and Nunes. There have been discussions within the Republican Party about the possibility of Schiff being removed from the Intelligence Committee if Democrats lose their House majority this fall, although Turner was unwilling to entertain the possibility.
While Republicans seem more serious about excluding another member of the committee—Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), another popular bogeyman for his political opponents—Schiff will not be off the table if he once again takes up that role on the committee. But any move against the committee’s Democratic members after the midterm elections would undoubtedly risk returning the committee to a partisan war.
And that’s not how Turner, who was first elected in 2002 with a background as mayor and trial attorney, tends to play into his hands. And his fellow Republicans say he is willing to try to rebuild the committee’s bipartisan reputation, whether or not Schiff leads the Democrats.
Flashes of his independence from Trump will help him there: Ohioans condemned the then president’s infamous 2019 phone call with the Ukrainian president, which led to impeachment proceedings. Earlier that year, Turner Trump criticized for ‘racist’ tweets About four female representatives of color said they should “go back” to “the crime-infested places from which they came”.
After the combat interview, Carlson Went after Turner on Twitter To vote against Trump’s attempt to defy Congress by redirecting funds for a southern border wall initially earmarked for military construction projects.
While he is willing to stand up to prominent conservatives, Turner is also ready to sing about Democrats. During his recent appearance on Fox News, Turner criticized Schiff as “largely discredited” and accused him of pushing the “Russia Hoax” – Nunes’ favorite phrase – for political ends.
Turner said the California Democrat “has shifted the committee from its focus on protecting our national security and intelligence community, to vendetta against the Trump family and even the Trump campaign.”
Regardless of that Nunes-like language, those who worked with Turner believed he would take a sharp turn toward the painting’s earlier legacy.
“This committee is really important and really powerful, and it has a lot to do with why we live the way we live,” said former Representative Tom Rooney (R-FL), who served on the Intelligence Committee with Turner. “And I think it’s best to go back to a special committee that works so well together.”