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Mike Turner

Turner blindsided by Johnson’s Intel appointments

News: Speaker Mike Johnson didn’t tell House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner (R-Ohio) that he was appointing two controversial House Republicans to the secretive panel, just one of the dynamics that is causing angst across the Capitol.

Turner learned that Johnson was tapping Reps. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) from press reports, according to multiple sources familiar with the events.

Johnson’s decision to appoint the two hardline Republicans to the committee is reverberating throughout the Hill. Several members of the committee — Republicans and Democrats — say they worry about the integrity of the panel in the wake of Johnson’s appointment of the pair.

After years of intense partisan clashes during the Donald Trump era, members of the Intelligence Committee have tried to rebuild the reputation of the panel. In their view, Johnson’s selection of Jackson and Perry betrays a lack of understanding about or respect for their work. And the indignity of allowing Turner to find out about the speaker’s final decision from social media was salt in the wound.

Perry, of course, was one of the key figures in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The FBI, which Perry will help oversee now, confiscated the Pennsylvania Republican’s phone as part of the probe into the Jan. 6 insurrection. That case is still being fought out in court.

Perry issued a blistering statement following his appointment, a move that raised the ire of several committee members. Perry said, in part: “I look forward to providing not only a fresh perspective, but conducting actual oversight – not blind obedience to some facets of our Intel Community.”

Several House Republicans and Democrats scoffed at the quote, saying it betrays a complete lack of understanding of the gravity of the issues Perry will be facing.

Jackson, of course, has his own colorful history. Trump nominated Jackson to be Veterans Affairs secretary. Jackson withdrew after a slew of stories accusing him of drinking on the job and inappropriately treating employees came out. Jackson denied all allegations, but a scathing Pentagon inspector general report resurfaced many of the accusations.

“I look forward to bringing my experience in the military, and as a doctor, to the committee so that I can be an asset for this incredible team led by Chairman Mike Turner,” Jackson said in a statement.

Johnson told fellow Republican lawmakers and aides that he made the appointments at the behest of Trump, who wanted Jackson and Perry on the panel.

Johnson, though, had plenty of other options to choose from here.

Reps. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), Stephanie Bice (R-Okla.) and Laurel Lee (R-Fla.) were among the dozens of Republicans who either expressed interest or were considered by the leadership for the job.

Gonzales made a play for the committee under former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and remains interested in serving on the panel, according to sources in the leadership. Gonzales was a Navy cryptologist and came to Congress to work on cyber issues.

Bice is a well-respected, well-liked member of the leadership. Lee is a former judge and member of the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee is typically represented on Intel. Not a single Republican on the committee also serves on Judiciary.

Unlike other committees, the decision here was Johnson’s — and Johnson’s alone. Perry and Jackson’s appointment doesn’t need to be ratified by the House Republican Steering Committee or the House Republican Conference.

The Intelligence Committee was the scene of hyper-partisan struggles during Trump’s presidency. Former GOP Chair Devin Nunes (Calif.) used the panel to fight accusations that Trump covertly sought Russian help during the 2016 election. Nunes — now chief executive of Trump’s social media company, Truth Social — was eventually awarded the Medal of Freedom by Trump.

Then Democrats used the Intelligence Committee — chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) at that point — to help oversee the 2019 impeachment inquiry on Trump. The panel even went as far as obtaining Nunes’ phone records, which infuriated Republicans.

After Republicans took over the House in 2022, McCarthy barred Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) from serving on the panel.

Turner and the top Intel Democrat, Rep. Jim Himes (Conn.), have worked to restore the bipartisan comity within the panel as the United States faces new threats worldwide. Now comes Perry and Jackson’s appointments, which could undo that effort.

— Jake Sherman

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