The timing was less than ideal. On Thursday night, NBC News ran a new report on the latest witness to accuse Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse of student athletes during his time as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University. The latest allegations, which the far-right congressman has repeatedly denied, were raised by a referee who filed a lawsuit last week.
Less than a day later, House Republican leaders gave Jordan a plum special assignment as part of the congressional impeachment inquiry.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of President Donald Trump’s most stalwart supporters, will be one of the Republicans grilling witnesses next week when the much-anticipated impeachment hearings get underway.
Jordan was tapped by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Friday to temporarily take the spot of Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., on the Intelligence Committee.
In a press statement announcing the decision, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) explained that Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) – whom McCarthy praised for his “sense of seriousness” and “thoughtfulness” – will be temporarily removed from the Intelligence Committee. He’ll be replaced by Jordan, a far-right Trump ally whom no one has ever praised for his “sense of seriousness” and “thoughtfulness.”
(For those who care about congressional procedures, because the Intelligence panel is a select committee, instead of a standing committee, membership can be changed at party leaders’ discretion. The temporary Jordan/Crawford swap didn’t have to go through the Steering Committee; McCarthy had the power do this on his own.)
So why bother? By all appearances, the point was to get a hyper-aggressive, attack-dog-style congressman, who’s earned a reputation as a relentless Trump cheerleader, on the Intelligence Committee in advance of this week’s start of public impeachment hearings.
All of which tells us two rather important things.
First, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee is currently Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who has embarrassed himself on a few too many occasions. If he’s feeling insulted by McCarthy’s decision to bring in Jordan, Nunes hasn’t said so publicly, but it’d hardly be unreasonable for the ranking member to see this as a slap in the face.
To state the obvious, if the House Republican leadership had complete confidence in Nunes and his team, there wouldn’t have been any need to bring in Jordan as some kind of pinch-hitter. Whether he intended to or not, McCarthy effectively signaled a belief that Nunes & Co. aren’t quite up to the job.
But putting aside Nunes’ feelings, perhaps the most important takeaway is the misplaced confidence House GOP leaders seem to have in the far-right Ohioan. The idea, by all appearances, is to bring Jordan onto the Intelligence panel because he’s so adept at questioning witnesses in pro-Trump ways in high-profile settings.
This may come as a surprise to those who watch Congress closely, and who’ve come to see Jordan as someone whose committee antics are often laughable – literally.
In June 2018, for example, Jordan pressed then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to explain why he hadn’t subpoenaed some witnesses’ phone calls. It fell to Rosenstein to explain, “There’s no way to subpoena phone calls,” prompting laughter from people in the room. It was at this same hearing that the deputy AG exposed Jordan’s ignorance about how the Justice Department works.
In April 2019, Jordan’s misplaced rhetoric about the Mueller Report during a committee hearing again generated laughter among people in the room.
Congressional Republicans somehow ended up with the impression that Jordan is some kind of whiz whose unique talents make him the perfect member to rescue Trump during the next phase of the impeachment inquiry. Time will tell, of course, but the party probably ought to start lowering its expectations ahead of this week’s hearings.