Interview With Congressman Mike Rogers

Interview With Congressman Mike Rogers

By The Lead With Jake Tapper - April 9, 2013

TAPPER: Joining me now is the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Hey, Jake. It's great to be here. And congratulations on the new show.


TAPPER: Thank you, sir. Thank you.

So, North Korea today warned foreigners in South Korea to take shelter or consider evacuating. They say -- quote -- "They do not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war."

Do you expect that we are going to see some type of military action on the peninsula?

ROGERS: Well, clearly, a lot of this is for domestic consumption for un. So, he is 28 years old. He's very young leader, very untested.

When he first started, he had some political folks around him that could have mediated some of this. It's been replaced, his inner circle, with real hard liners. So what I think you see happening, Jake, is he -- he is making a fuss for his own solidification of his military environment, and Korea is one of those countries that is an army with a country, and he is trying to solidify his power base.

Now, that being said, as aggressive as he has been, it's a little bit out of the box of where his father was. His father used to do this, but you could tell when he was getting ready to back down. We just don't know that point yet. And our concern is he may even be looking for some small, and I want to emphasize small, skirmish to embolden his credentials with the military.

TAPPER: What type of small skirmish are you talking about? Obviously, in 2010, the North Koreans attacked a South Korean ship, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

They attacked, they shelled an island, killing four South Koreans. Do you think it will be something that will include loss of life?

ROGERS: Well, it could. I mean, any time there is that military exchange, there is certainly that possibility.

And I believe those were clearly attempts, you know, to rattle ROGERS: Well, it could. I mean, any time there is that military exchange there is certainly that possibility and I believe those were clearly attempts, you know, to rattle the saber and, unfortunately, there was no response to either one of those events. So, in their mind -- you have to think about what they're thinking -- they're thinking, well, we can continue and up to these small types of skirmishes to prove our point before we have to back down.

The trouble is, his rhetoric is well overheated than normal and that's what concerns me, certainly.

TAPPER: President Obama has been taking a page out of Teddy Roosevelt's book "speaking softly carrying a big stick." Do you think the White House is striking the right tone or should the U.S. be more aggressive and assertive when it comes to the threats from North Korea?

ROGERS: I think they've done a good job on the Korean response. So the initial move of interceptors, things that could shoot down missiles out West, I mean, it was about a year too late but I'm glad they did it. The fact that they were showing that we have military capabilities that we could have to engage in a conflict like this and we're using it I thought that was absolutely appropriate.

And then the next step here is we have got to engage China. If China -- China wants, they can stop all of that fuel in the black -- the black market fuel purchases going across the Chinese and North Korean border. They haven't really stepped up to do that.

So we can show that we have the strength and resolve that we will not tolerate threats of nuclear exchange or military attack to the United States. Thought that was handled well. Let's step up our diplomatic efforts with China and others to pressure them to stop those transactions on the northern border. That will hurt North Korea more than anything. You'd be surprised.

TAPPER: I want to move to a different hot spot in the world.


TAPPER: "Reuters" is reporting that al Qaeda in Iraq says that it considers a group in Syria to be an extension of their organization, part of the opposition in Syria. How concerned are you about the opposition in Syria and about their ties to terrorist groups?

ROGERS: Very. This is something we talked about for sometime. So, their announcement isn't anything new. Just the fact that they're bragging about it in such a big way tells you where they think they are in Syria -- meaning, they think their position is strong enough.

And in the beginning, the estimates were hundreds. I can tell you, the estimates now are thousands of people who are mainly through something called the al Nusra front, which is a front organization for al Qaeda in Iraq. And it's so concerning, Jake, because we have chemical weapons there and we have a huge stockpile of very sophisticated conventional weapons. So it is obviously concerning. So, think of this. You have al Qaeda in a destabilized country who wants to get their hands on those weapons. You have Hezbollah in the North who wants to get their hands on the weapons. We even have reports now of Hamas elements there looking and snooping around for the possibility to get their hands on those weapons.

This is a disaster waiting to happen.

TAPPER: On the domestic front, Congressman, you told "Bloomberg" yesterday that you're in favor of background checks for the purchases of guns. I'm wondering if you could provide a little bit more detail.

Do you support universal background checks or are there exceptions you favor? Do you support the legislation being discussed in the Senate? Where are you exactly on the issue?

ROGERS: Yes, I think there's room for background checks and -- for firearm purchases and some expansion of it. Not for registering firearms and all the other things people want to attach to it.

But the other thing I said in that interview that didn't make the press was that we're going to spend a lot of time pitting blue states against red states, cities against rural areas, about, with this conversation about a beauty contest for firearms. And I was a former FBI agent, so I understand these very well.

If you really want to get at this issue the one thing that no one wants to talk about is this mental health issue. In each of these cases, from the Gabby Gifford case to the Newtown case to the Colorado case, the players have both interaction with law enforcement and the mental health community to a point it raised alarms. But there was no mechanism to intercede in that person's life to stop them short of a violent act.

If we don't have that conversation, there isn't one proposal, not one, that would have stopped these events from happening. And so, that's been my concern is let's do the things we can agree on. Let's get a simple registration that I think 85 percent of us will agree to that doesn't overstep the bounds and let's have this national debate about what we need to do about those very difficult, very hard core, violent tendency mental health issues that we were really going to have to step up and do something about.

TAPPER: Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, thanks for joining us today.

ROGERS: Thanks, Jake. 

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