Intelligence Chairman Defends His Hints About a Russian Space Weapon

Representative Michael R. Turner defended his decision to hint publicly about classified intelligence that Russia is moving to deploy a new space-based nuclear weapon.

“They needed to know this information,” Mr. Turner, an Ohio Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that aired Sunday. He added: “I was concerned that it appeared that the administration was sleepwalking into an international crisis. But it looks like now they’re going to be able to take action.”

Mr. Turner, who has been aligned with President Biden in approving aid for Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression, faced anger from the White House after his committee issued a cryptic statement on Wednesday calling for the release of classified material without mentioning what it was. Current and former U.S. officials later said the intelligence related to a space-based nuclear weapon designed to take down U.S. satellite networks crucial for defense and civil infrastructure.

Some of Mr. Turner’s Republican colleagues, including Representative Andy Ogles of Tennessee, doubted his motives and said that the Intelligence Committee’s statement was written to “ensure additional funding to Ukraine.”

But Mr. Turner stood by his call to release the information, which he said helped bring the Biden administration’s attention to the issue.

“This was not just an action by myself,” Mr. Turner said, emphasizing that the statement was issued by his committee. He said he was glad “the administration is taking this seriously, and we’ll now be able to see action from the administration.”

The Biden administration, concerned about losing key informants with the release of classified information, briefed members of Congress on Thursday that any Russian space-based system posed “no immediate threat to anyone’s safety,” a White House spokesman, John F. Kirby, told reporters. Mr. Kirby spoke to the potential danger that Russian antisatellite technology presented while rejecting Mr. Turner’s call to declassify the related intelligence.

Mr. Turner defended his decision and said he acted according to his committee’s rules by consulting the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees U.S. intelligence programs and advises the administration. The agency voiced “no objections whatsoever,” Mr. Turner said.

The administration and Republican leaders in Congress have spent weeks in legislative gridlock over a foreign aid package that includes $60.1 billion for Ukraine, as well as a bill with new security measures to address the influx of migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico. But the White House’s briefing of lawmakers on Thursday led to rare Republican approval of the Biden administration’s posture toward Russia.

“There’s steady hands at the wheel,” Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters after the briefing.

Mr. Turner reinforced that message after the briefing.

“The bottom line is that we all came away with a very strong impression that the administration is taking this very seriously and that the administration has a plan in place,” he said.

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