Peter King States His Case in Quest to Be Intelligence Committee Chairman

Contender claims he’s leaving Boehner alone and focusing on staying in the news.

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence member Rep. Peter King, R-NY, arrives for a closed briefing by administration officials for the House Armed Services Committee and Intelligence Committee on Syria on September 9, 2013 in the House Visitors Center of the Capitol in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Stacy Kaper
April 13, 2014, 8:31 a.m.

Rep. Pete King is already au­di­tion­ing to be the GOP mouth­piece on the need to pro­tect the em­battled Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency and re­main vi­gil­ant against Is­lam­ic ex­trem­ism — stances that are cent­ral to his bid to suc­ceed re­tir­ing Rep. Mike Ro­gers as House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man.

The New York Re­pub­lic­an, who formerly led the Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee, says fight­ing ter­ror­ism has been his “ob­ses­sion” since the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tack killed 150 of his friends, neigh­bors, and con­stitu­ents. He says he knows how to lead the com­mit­tee, from his five years of serving on it and his pre­vi­ous ex­per­i­ence as a chair­man deal­ing with closely re­lated ter­ror­ism mat­ters.

“I have a con­cern that not just the coun­try, but the Re­pub­lic­an Party — and not John Boehner or Eric Can­tor — but some people in our party, seem to be push­ing for­eign policy in­to the back­ground, and don’t real­ize what a threat that is, don’t real­ize what a threat Is­lam­ic ter­ror­ism is, or how we have to be con­stantly on our guards,” King told Na­tion­al Journ­al.

King is one of sev­er­al mem­bers, in­clud­ing Re­pub­lic­an Reps. Dev­in Nunes of Cali­for­nia and Jeff Miller of Flor­ida, who have entered the con­test to take over the gavel of the power­ful House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee next Con­gress after Ro­gers re­tires to take a na­tion­al se­cur­ity gig on the ra­dio.

King in­sists he is not try­ing to pit him­self against his com­pet­it­ors.

“I have great re­gard for them, so I’m not run­ning against them,” he said. “I’m run­ning for my­self. You are not go­ing to hear me say any­thing neg­at­ive about either of those two.”

King and the oth­er con­tenders won’t have to make their cases be­fore their peers on the Steer­ing Com­mit­tee and try to ac­cu­mu­late a ma­jor­ity of their col­leagues’ votes to win the coveted lead­er­ship post. In­stead, be­cause In­tel­li­gence is a spe­cial “se­lect” com­mit­tee, the de­cision is up to one per­son only: the speak­er of the House, who may or may not be John Boehner come Janu­ary.

But while some con­tenders might de­cide to cozy up to Boehner & Co., and work the in­side polit­ics game, King says his strategy is to leave Boehner alone un­til the Novem­ber elec­tions are closer.

“All I’ve done is I’ve told Speak­er Boehner I’m very much in­ter­ested; I’d like to be con­sidered,” King said. “I’ve told him I’m not go­ing to say any­thing more to him un­til we are closer to Elec­tion Day in Novem­ber, when he has to make a de­cision. I don’t want to be both­er­ing him. He knows what I feel, and I as­sume that when it comes time to make a de­cision, he’ll talk to me, but I’m not go­ing to be both­er­ing him between now and then.”

In the mean­time, King says, he plans to con­tin­ue to work me­dia chan­nels, by re­main­ing a reg­u­lar on the Sunday show cir­cuit and speak­ing out on high-pro­file in­tel­li­gence and na­tion­al se­cur­ity is­sues on Cap­it­ol Hill.

King lis­ted the de­fense of the “es­sen­tial” NSA, Rus­sia’s destabil­iz­ing forces, cy­ber­se­cur­ity is­sues with China, Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar weapons, the Benghazi at­tack, and the Bo­ston Mara­thon bomb­ing among some of the top areas he would fo­cus on as head of the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

“These are all is­sues that we have to make known to the Con­gress,” he said of the Re­pub­lic­an need to send a strong mes­sage on these mat­ters. “On the oth­er hand, we have to do it in a way that does not dis­close secrets and does not com­prom­ise any of our as­sets. It takes that man­euver­ab­il­ity of be­ing able to learn as much as we can and then be able to trans­late that and trans­mit that without giv­ing up any secrets, or any strategies, or any as­sets, or any meth­ods that we are us­ing to ob­tain that in­form­a­tion. I be­lieve I can do that.”

King said his strategy for mak­ing his case for the job is “just be­ing my­self, really.” He pow­wows with law-en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence agents in New York reg­u­larly in “Ter­ror Tues­day” meet­ings, and he keeps in reg­u­lar com­mu­nic­a­tion with his con­tacts at the in­tel­li­gence agen­cies in Wash­ing­ton on on­go­ing in­vest­ig­a­tions.

“You’ll see me quite a bit in the me­dia ask­ing ques­tions. You’ll see me play­ing a role at com­mit­tee hear­ings,” he said.

King cites as an ex­ample of his flair an In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing earli­er this month on the Benghazi at­tack with former Cent­ral In­tel­li­gence Agency Dir­ect­or Mike Mor­rell, where he de­scribes him­self as one of the lead ques­tion­ers. King in­sists he does not trust the ad­min­is­tra­tion on Benghazi and needs to keep the pres­sure on to get the truth out.

“It is im­port­ant to be able to get the mes­sage out as to what the Re­pub­lic­an mes­sage would be on in­tel­li­gence,” he said. “Mak­ing sure that the Re­pub­lic­an view, hope­fully the bi­par­tis­an view of the com­mit­tee, is ar­tic­u­lated on tele­vi­sion.”

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