Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, arrives for a deposition with Peter Strzok, the FBI agent facing criticism following a series of anti-Trump text messages, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. 
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Facing new accusations, Jim Jordan shifts his strategy

At first, it was three people who alleged that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), during his tenure as a coach at Ohio State, knew about a team physician’s sexual misconduct toward student athletes, but he turned a blind eye at the time. The were soon joined by a fourth witness. And then a fifth. And a sixth.

The Washington Post updated the tally in a report over the weekend.

A seventh former Ohio State University wrestler said Saturday that he believes Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) knew about inappropriate behavior that allegedly took place in the school’s athletic department three decades ago, as two more former team members came to Jordan’s defense.

David Range, who wrestled for Ohio State in the late 1980s, said Jordan had to have known about alleged sexual misconduct by Richard Strauss, an athletic doctor whose behavior is under investigation by the school, because it happened regularly to team members and people talked about it. Jordan has denied he knew, saw or heard about any inappropriate behavior while he was an assistant wrestling coach from 1987 to 1995.

Range told the Washington Post, “Jordan definitely knew that these things were happening – yes, most definitely.”

For his part, the Republican congressman went on Fox News on Friday afternoon, and seemed to take a slightly different posture than he had earlier in the week, saying, “Conversations in a locker room are a lot different than allegations of abuse.”

Asked, however, if he’d heard locker-room banter on the subject, Jordan replied, “No. No. No type of abuse. We did not hear that.”

But beyond just denying what the witnesses have alleged, the far-right lawmaker has also gone on the offensive against the witnesses. The Washington Post also reported:

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) accused a former Ohio State University wrestler of having a “vendetta” against his family Friday as he stood by his statements that he knew nothing about alleged sexual abuse in the school’s athletic department three decades ago. […]

Jordan consistently denied seeing, knowing or hearing about any sexual misconduct as more accounts surfaced this week. The six-term congressman has called the timing of the allegations “suspect,” suggesting it was tied to chatter about his leadership ambitions and a tense exchange between him and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein that was recently covered in the media.

Some of Jordan’s defenders, meanwhile, have made the case he’s the victim of “deep state” conspirators.

In other words, from Donald Trump to the House Freedom Caucus, the right is circling the wagons.

Given the growing number of witnesses who insist Jordan is lying, this is a risky gambit. I can imagine a statement from the Ohio congressman in which he acknowledges hearing locker-room banter, while expressing some regret for failing to fully appreciate at the time how serious a situation this was. It’s likely the political world would largely accept his contrition, especially if Jordan fully cooperates with the Ohio State investigation, which he says he’s eager to do.

But Jordan and his allies are instead going with a deny-and-confront strategy, relying on conspiracy theories as if the GOP lawmaker were the real victim of this story.

Don’t be surprised if Jordan soon decides this was the wrong tack.