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Former House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers Discusses Released GOP Memo

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

More now on our top story today - the memo. Four pages pulled together by staffers for Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The memo claims the FBI and the Justice Department abused their authority in the early stages of the Russia investigation. Well, to help evaluate that claim, we've reached out to Mike Rogers. He is Devin Nunes' immediate predecessor - the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee from 2011 until 2015, also a former FBI special agent. Mike Rogers, welcome.

MIKE ROGERS: Well, thank you very much for having me, Mary Louise.

KELLY: As someone who spent a lot of hours poring over classified memos produced by intelligence committee staffers, what catches your eye in this one?

ROGERS: Just how incomplete it really is - it gives you part of the story. But clearly there is a lot more information that they either chose not to put in there or couldn't put in there because of classification. And I argue that probably doesn't allow you to make the best decision based on the information just in the memo itself.

KELLY: What about the state of the Russia investigation? Is this a blip, and we'll all be moving on to talking about something else next week? Or do you think there will be lasting fallout from this?

ROGERS: Well, it depends. I mean, certainly there's speculation that it rattles the confidence in Rod Rosenstein, who is now the deputy attorney general. But candidly, there's not a lot there. Most of that information has been already out in the public. And so I'm skeptical that it'll have a long impact. I think the worst impact it's going to have is just driving this partisan - sharp-edge partisanship deeper into the committee.

KELLY: And what about the strange relationship that has emerged between the president, his own FBI director and the Justice Department, which, you know, is part of the executive branch? As someone with your experience, who has worked for the FBI, has also run the House Intelligence Committee, it's quite a pickle they find themselves in.

ROGERS: Well, it is. It's pretty unusual. I've heard a lot of folks say that the FBI director should resign. I passionately disagree with that. I do - I think he should stay. This is one thing. He disagreed with the president on the release. The president gets to make that decision. He agreed to the release. You know, I'm sure there'll be other disagreements as well. So he can't take our toys and go home every time there's a dispute. And I can tell you, from an FBI agent's perspective, it's just an uncomfortable place for them to be. They don't like being in politics in the first place. They don't like being kicked around by politics in the second place. And having the commander in chief do it is probably just not that helpful.

KELLY: You said the FBI doesn't like being in politics. Republicans - your fellow Republicans, some of them have alleged that this memo lays out what is a pattern of a posse of FBI and Justice Department officials who don't like President Trump, never liked President Trump, want to see his presidency fail. And they're using the Russia probe to sabotage him. Can you 100 percent rule that out - that that's not true?

ROGERS: Well, you know, just as much as I don't like saying that we should, you know, find the folks guilty that they put out in the memo, I don't think we should impugn the integrity unless there's just more there. You know, my...

KELLY: You're saying you can't rule it out, but you've seen no evidence that it's the case.

ROGERS: Yeah, exactly. And here's the thing that I think, you know, bothers me so much, especially as a Republican who chaired the Intelligence Committee. I believe that we need to be cautious and use good oversight on government agencies because they can abuse power. What bothers me is that I also take that same standard to the president and to the intelligence committee itself. They're alleging that there was abuse of the FBI power in getting a warrant in an election year. Well, that's pretty serious.

So my call to them is get a bipartisan investigation in the classified spaces. Do a very thorough research of all of the information that went into this. Talk to the agents. Talk to the people who've prepared the case. And then give the American people an idea if you think that abuse actually happened. And so I think we've got to get back to that as soon as we can, or we're going to destroy the institutions that allow us to have these checks and balances. And it really is the envy of the world. Let's not screw that up.

KELLY: Mike Rogers, I was about to ask you if you could lean down and whisper one word of advice in the ear of your successor Devin Nunes as chair of House Intelligence Committee - what would you tell them. I think you just answered that.

ROGERS: Yeah, I think I did.

KELLY: Thanks very much.

ROGERS: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Mike Rogers, former Republican congressman from Michigan. While in Congress, he chaired the House Intelligence Committee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.