WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Mike Rogers, the brash-talking Republican security hawk who has criticized the Obama administration yet commanded uncommon bipartisan support as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday he was retiring from Congress next year.
The 50-year-old from Michigan made the surprising announcement in a radio interview, saying he'd leave Washington when his seventh term expires to begin a career in broadcasting. Rogers' departure comes despite a sharp climb in his national profile, as he considered a Senate run and his name was floated as a possible candidate for FBI director. He has been among the GOP's best fundraisers.
Rogers vowed in a statement to continue championing stronger national security strategy, a regular motif for one of Congress' loudest proponents of a more muscular approach for U.S. action around the world.
He was the first U.S. official to cite strong intelligence of chemical weapons use by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, supporting President Barack Obama's effort, later abandoned, to win congressional approval for the use of force.
Rogers also has advocated creating safe zones in Syria to train and give weapons to anti-Assad rebels; sharply criticized the Obama administration's response to the killing of a U.S. ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11; and persistently highlighted threats posed by the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaida and other militant groups determined to attack Americans.
Outgoing and gregarious, Rogers has been a frequent guest on nationally syndicated news television programs, sometimes excoriating Obama's cautious approach to foreign policy dilemmas. He was a national security adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
Yet in an era of partisan divide, Rogers has maintained an excellent working relationship with the Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersburger of Maryland, with the pair frequently traveling together to foreign hot spots and combining efforts on legislation to tighten cybersecurity and fight terrorism.
In response to Rogers' announcement, Ruppersberger commended him for his efforts to seek bipartisan agreement on intelligence issues. Noting that the Michigan Republican won't be leaving the House until January, Ruppersberger said he and Rogers still have much work to do this year.
"He's done a tremendous job as chairman of the Intelligence Committee. He's very patriotic and works very hard for his country," Ruppersberger told The Associated Press. "We have trust with each other and we work things out."
Rogers has a similarly close relationship with his Senate counterpart, Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, and has toed a middle line on the National Security Agency's collection of bulk telephone data, proposing reforms similar to those of the Obama administration.
With Rogers stepping aside, it is unclear who will become chairman of the Intelligence Committee if Republicans maintain control over the House as expected in November's midterm elections.
Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas is next in line, but is favored to take over the House Armed Services Committee from retiring Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon. Behind Thornberry are Jeff Miller of Florida, currently Veterans' Affairs chairman; Mike Conaway of Texas, Ethics chairman; and Peter King of New York, formerly Homeland Security chairman. Devin Nunes of California said Friday he'd vie for the post.
Rogers broke the news Friday by telling Detroit radio station WJR-AM he would launch his own show with Atlanta-based Cumulus Media, which provides programing to thousands of stations nationwide. The transition should be a smooth one for a politician who has been a Washington favorite for television interviews.
He declared that a series of leaks on counterterrorism successes in 2010 were "probably the most damaging" in the nation's history. And he has implied that NSA leaker Edward Snowden may have been a foreign spy, despite offering no evidence to substantiate the claim.
Even in his departure note, Rogers played up his personal efforts to make America safer, claiming he sat "in the CIA director's office helping to plan the operation to kill Osama bin Laden." No member of Congress was understood to have played a role in planning the May 2011 attack by Navy SEALs in Pakistan, though Rogers praised the CIA afterward for keeping him informed.
An Army veteran who served 5 ½ years in the FBI's organized crime unit in Chicago, Rogers was Michigan state senator from 1994 to 2001 before squeaking into the U.S. Congress in the nation's closest House race. He won by 111 votes.
Rogers quickly made his mark as a furious fundraiser. And he raised his profile with a 2009 speech against Obama's health care overhaul that has been watched almost 8 million times on YouTube. In the same vein Friday, he lambasted what he termed an "assault" on the American dream by those wishing to replace hard work with government reliance.
Rogers disappointed Republicans last year by opting not to run for a U.S. Senate seat. FBI agents tried at the same time to draft him in as their new director, though Obama opted for James Comey.
An April 22 filing deadline for Michigan congressional candidates may have prompted Rogers' decision. Two senior Democrats from the state, Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. John Dingell, have similarly announced their retirement.
Asked about his new radio show, Mike Rogers said Friday: "It's a pretty rare opportunity. They don't come around very often."
Runk reported from Detroit. Associated Press writers David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., and Donna Cassata and Douglass K. Daniel in Washington contributed to this report.