Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has a lot on his plate. His job as chair of the Judiciary Committee positions him atop one of the primary forums for sparring with the Biden administration. But his side hustle chairing a subcommittee focused on the “weaponization of the federal government” is giving him all kinds of grief lately.
The goal of the subcommittee is to deliver on one of the biggest promises Republicans made during last year’s elections: producing proof that conservatives are victims of a vast federal plot to suppress their freedoms. Unfortunately for Jordan, everything about this farce is designed to work against him. It’s only a matter of time before the whole thing implodes — with Jordan caught squarely in the fallout.
There’s a reason why in most actual investigations, at least some fact-finding is done first.
Let’s take a look at the several ways that Jordan and the committee are poised to fail. First, there’s how much he and other members of the pro-Trump wing have invested in the grievances and conspiracy-mongering that animates the GOP base these days. Many of these tales of federal malfeasance follow a simple formula. A legitimate investigation or policy (such as the investigations into former President Donald Trump or Justice Department concerns about threats toward teachers and school board members) is recycled and spun in conservative media into another strand in the left-wing’s web of oppression.
Jordan and his fellow Republicans have spent hours on Fox News, Newsmax, right-wing podcasts, and social media to hype these stories and connect them to a Grand Theory of Wokeness that is stifling speech and jailing innocent conservatives. Those are serious charges — and if the crimes are so obvious, and the plot has already been uncovered, producing the evidence should be simple.
But that level of certainty is backfiring for Jordan. There’s a reason why in most actual investigations, at least some fact-finding is done first. And those doing the digging are usually careful to leave themselves wiggle-room for some unforeseen development. That’s the exact opposite of what Jordan has been doing, which Axios aptly described as “a tendency to make statements first and hope his investigative work will back them up.”
That has in turn produced pressure for results from the base and right-wing media hosts who need more grist for their mill. Now that the GOP is in power, they ask, why aren’t the promised heads rolling? “Make me feel better, guys,” Fox News’ Jesse Watters said last month, just weeks after the new Congress was gaveled in. “Tell me this is going somewhere. Can I throw someone in prison? Can someone go to jail? Can someone get fined?”
Instead, what we’ve seen so far has been amateur hour at best. The first hearing of the subcommittee, held in early February, boiled down to a laundry list of grievances from current and former politicians followed by a very unconvincing panel of witnesses, including two FBI agents who testified that the vibes in the bureau were off before they resigned. Jordan claimed that his staffers have spoken to “dozens” of FBI whistleblowers but refused to name any when challenged. Even Fox News cut away from what was supposed to be the opening salvo of a brutal attack on liberal injustice.
It’s hard to see how Jordan will be able to extricate himself from this slow-moving train wreck.
In the month since then, the subcommittee has gone quiet. Three former FBI witnesses it has deposed so far are mostly cranks with no evidence of any sort of wrongdoing, according to a lengthy report from the panel’s Democrats. The next hearing, scheduled for Thursday, is on accusations of anti-conservative bias at Twitter, a line of inquiry that already proved disastrous at an Oversight Committee hearing last month.
It’s hard to see how Jordan will be able to extricate himself from this slow-moving train wreck. Maybe that’s why he’s doubled down, asking the House Administration Committee for millions of dollars more to pursue these aimless, shambolic investigations, according to Axios. He also defended the subcommittee’s work so far to Semafor, even claiming that the body will “propose legislation that will help fix the problem, and use the appropriation process, if we need to, to limit some of the egregious behavior we’ve seen.”
My MSNBC colleague Steve Benen makes the point that Jordan and his fellow far-right lawmakers seem to really believe in the existence of these nefarious plots — a point I agree with, to an extent. The emails and texts from Fox News hosts revealed in recent days show how public bravado can mask private skepticism. You know who has definitely bought into it? The conservatives who have been fed promises that Jordan can’t possibly keep.
The only defense Jordan has going for him is that it wasn’t even his own idea. The “weaponization” subcommittee is the brainchild of former Trump administration official Russ Vought. But instead of focusing on the Judiciary Committee’s work, Jordan decided to keep the spotlight on himself. He’s the one who holds the gavel and he’s the one who will bear the brunt of any blame for a failure to deliver.