WASHINGTON, D.C (NBC 26) — Representative Gallagher has made a name for himself in Congress. We've seen him featured on television in heated debates about the Chinese Communist Party but how much do we really know about Congressman Mike Gallagher, his life, and why he got into politics?
Last week in Washington, we were given unprecedented access to Congressman Gallagher's Daily life in D.C.
Each morning he hits the ground running. On the morning of May 17, it happened to be for a three-mile charity race, the ACLI Capitol Challenge. Congressman Gallagher took home the title of the fastest man in Congress 6 for the sixth straight year.
"Fastest man in Congress. Most members of Congress are above the age of 70 and uh, they're easy to beat," says Gallagher, still catching his breath after crossing the finish line.
Next, he traded his green running shoes for a blue suit for back-to-back meetings with constituents in his office, decorated wall to wall with Wisconsin Gear. Complete with a coffee table made out of a used Door County Brewery keg.
The rest of the day was filled with classified meetings, congressional voting, a portrait unveiling of former Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan that was filled wall-to-wall with congressional heavy-hitters, then chairing a hearing for the Select Committee on China.
The Congressman's day is expertly scheduled down to the minute.
While he splits his time in D.C., he keeps a tight commute. How tight?
"Yes, I actually live in my office," confesses Gallagher.
Tucked away behind a hidden door is a room that looks like a military barrack. Something Congressman Gallagher is familiar with.
Before being elected to Congress, Mike Gallagher served with the US Marine Corps as an intelligence officer. He completed two combat deployments in Iraq, lead Republican staffer for the middle east and counterterrorism on the Senate foreign relations committee, earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton University, a master's degree in security studies from Georgetown University, a second master's degree in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University, and a Ph.D. in international relations from Georgetown University.
NBC 26 asked Congressman Gallagher, with a resume packed with international relations, why did he choose to pursue politics?
"It was unexpected. I moved back to Wisconsin to work for Governor Walker. I was his national security adviser when he ran for president; it was a rare opportunity to do national security work and be back at home near my family," said Congressman Gallagher.
"When that ended, I moved back to Green Bay and wanted to pursue a career in both the private sector and academia. I was getting ready to teach a course at UWGB and was working for a company called Breakthrough Fuel when my predecessor, Reid Ribble a former Congressman, unexpectedly resigned and some people asked me if I would be interested in running. My first reaction was no way, no way," he adds.
"I moved back to Wisconsin because that's where my family was. But when I moved back, I didn't have any inkling that I would be running for office. I thought I would be working for Gov. Walker and then he would be president and I would work for him in a national security role so politics was not on my radar," said Gallagher.
Since taking office in January 2017, Congressman Gallagher has taken on high profiles roles in Congress. He has been elected as the chairman of the new Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, as the Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Information Technologies, and Innovation, and on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
It's a lot to balance for a 39-year-old who's also a husband and father to two young girls.
"I'm fortunate enough to have a wife who's incredible, a rockstar, and the greatest mom in the world and she allows me to do this," referring to his wife, Anne.
For Gallagher, life in Congress, he says is not a lifelong commitment.
"I treat this like a deployment. I don't think Congress should be a career. I think this is a pivotal moment right now when we have to get a few big things right in order to beat China, in order to prevent a war in the short term, and beat China in the long term," says Congressman Gallagher.
Craig Gilbert, former Washington Bureau Chief with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has been following Gallagher's career since he took office. Gilbert says chairing the select committee on China has paved the way for Gallagher to focus on China.
"He's one of those guys that people have picked up and sort of see as a rising figure within the party, says Gilbert. "He's carved out a policy niche for himself on the Hill."
Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) who is also a member of the select committee on China agrees.
"Mike has done a good job of keeping these issues bipartisan. Making it about America, not about being a Democrat or Republican,' says Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA).
"Mike and I don't view China in the same way but the conversations are respectful they're civil they're with a common objective which is American strength and ultimately peace," adds Congressman Khanna.
It's no secret tensions between the U.S. and China have been rising for years. The purpose of the Select Committee on China is to bring bipartisan focus on the economic and military challenges China poses to the U.S.
As chairman, Congressman Gallagher is calling for action.
"That has me worried right now. That we are not attacking this thing with a sense of urgency and I think that's part of my job as chairman of the select committee on China, is to inject a sense of urgency into this competition. To wake my colleagues up," he says.
One of the issues making headlines is Congressman Gallgher's call for a ban on TikTok.
"The issue with TikTok is that it's not just highly addictive for kids which it is, and it's increasing depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among young kids. That's why I call it digital fentanyl because it's highly addictive and it can be sourced back to China. It's not just that, It's not just that. It's that it can track your location and exfiltrate your data," says Congressman Gallagher.
"It's as if in the Cold War, we would have allowed the KGB to buy ABC, NBC, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and that probably would understate the scope of the problem.
In our sit-down interview with Congressman Gallagher, we asked if he believes the United States is in the early stages of a Cold War with China.
"We are in the early stages of a new cold war, says Gallagher. "What makes this Cold War so difficult and so complex than for the better part of three decades now we have been integrating China into the global economy and in many cases, we have become conjoined twins with China economically so we're trying to figure out where and how we separate."
"We have to reclaim our economic independence. There are also areas where we have an advantage that we cannot surrender so China has massive energy needs and we have massive energy resources. Which is why we cannot have a counterproductive energy policy that’s built on green new deal fantasies where we surrender that advantage," he adds.
"China has massive food needs and we are an agriculture superpower, particularly in northeast Wisconsin we don’t want to surrender that advantage so we just need to be clear about the areas where we reduce our dependency but don’t surrender the natural advantages we have."
China has become increasingly antagonistic towards Taiwan and its independence. Experts worry that aggressive action from China towards the small democratic island nation, 100 miles off its coast could destabilize the world economy.
"Everything in your house in northeast Wisconsin with an on and off switch most likely has a chip or semiconductor that's made in Taiwan. So if China controls Taiwan they have the ability to hold the rest of the world economically hostage," says Gallagher as he addresses Taiwain and the world's most valuable semiconductor company, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).
"The American people would not be insulated," says Gallagher. "It would basically render us subordinate, humiliated, and irrelevant on the world stage and it would allow China to become the dominant global power, and in a world where China becomes a dominant global power is a very dark, dark world we don't want to live in.
In Washington D.C., where most issues are polarized, there seems to be a bipartisan approach toward China.
"I think Mike recognizes the economic competition. He wants manufacturing to come back. He also recognizes our strategic interest in ensuring that they do not invade Taiwan and he has done a good job of bringing that issue to the committee and building bipartisan consensus," says Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Ca).
Chuck Todd of NBC's Meet the Press says Gallagher's leadership on the select committee is making a big impact.
"I think what comes out of it is going to be taken very seriously by everybody involved, not just on one side of the aisle," Todd tells NBC 26.
What's been making headlines in recent months is Congressman Gallagher's focus on geopolitical relations but what is he doing for his 8th congressional district in northeast Wisconsin?
"We have the future of the Navy is being built in northeast Wisconsin, in Marinette with the frigates and what we need to do to counter China is have a bigger Navy. So there is a very real connection between what we are doing on the China committee. Also what I've done chairing the commission on the cyber over the last two years. Every business in northeast Wisconsin has a profound concern in cyberspace," Gallagher says.
In his 6 years in Congress, Mike Gallagher has made a name for himself not just in geopolitics but in his open criticism of former president, Donald Trumpafter the January 6th attack on the capitol.
Some political experts we spoke with say that could hurt Congressman Gallagher in the long run, losing Republican votes. Others see it as a strength for this political career.
"One, I don't consider this as a career. I try to take it issue by issue and not think about the long-term implications for my political career because politics should not be a career," Gallagher says. "I think there should be a season of service."
"The problem with modern politics is that is has become careerist. We have too many life-ers in Congress."
We asked Congressman Gallagher if he would consider running for a statewide office in 2024.
"I have made no decisions about statewide office so we'll see," he says.
"We have a lot of candidates who are not Trump who are good. There's going to be a big old messy debate that's healthy for the party so we'll see what happens."
Craig Gilbert, former Washington Bureau reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Congressman Gallagher's stance on Trump could bolster his political career.
"It could be something that creates a challenge for him within his own party. It could be. But at the same time, it could be something that could help him in a general election," says Gilbert.
Chuck Todd from NBC's Meet The Press says Gallagher's future doesn't lie in political office.
"Republicans are going to be unsuccessful in their abilities to recruit Mike Gallagher to be a Senate candidate because I think he is so determined to readjust our China policy and keep it out of political space that I think he would believe that his participation in a Senate race would do harm to that," says Todd.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler says Gallagher isn't focused on the needs of northeast Wisconsinites.
"It seems like Mike Gallagher is more interested in being kind of Secretary of Defense from a position in Congress than he is in representing the people of the 8th congressional district,' says Wikler.
"It might be that's where his interests lie in terms of that military strategy but it's not what a lot of people are voting for when they send someone to Congress," Wikler adds. "I think that's one of the key questions we will be thinking about when we look at the 8th congressional district race in 2024."
For now, Congressman Gallagher remains firm on sidelining his political ambitions
"I'm trying to stay focused on the mission at hand and that is chairing the China committee in Congress, it's continuing our work in northeast Wisconsin it's doing work on the armed services committee. I want to do the best possible job there," says Gallagher.