On Wednesday, Rep. Jim Jordan, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, gaveled in the first hearing in what he promised will be a crusade against the Biden administration: “We won’t stop until we get the truth to fix the problem for the American people.” The hearing—supposedly about the “border crisis”—had little to do with truth, though, instead going off on wild tangents, highlighting MAGA disinformation, and exploiting human suffering. That was to be expected given the record of the man who led it—one of obstructing investigations, spreading disinformation, and sowing false doubt in the minds of the American people. It confirmed what we knew going into the hearing: Jordan is unfit to serve on the Judiciary Committee, much less lead it.
Jordan is a classic demagogue. When presented with facts or evidence which plainly debunk his position, he doesn’t concede or even attempt to further inquire into those truths. He instead seems content with pretending as though he was never presented with the truth at all, repeating his talking points incessantly without even acknowledging contradictory facts presented to him. This was seen most recently in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, during which Jordan just flat-out ignored his interlocutor, Chuck Todd. Under his leadership, the committee’s aim to “fix” anything is a false premise, as Jordan has made clear he is out to get President Biden and his administration.
Jordan began Wednesday’s opening hearing with the white nationalism–tinged argument that Biden is intentionally working to flood the nation with dangerous undocumented immigrants. “Month after month after month, we have set records for migrants coming into the country, and frankly I think it’s intentional,” Jordan alleged. “It seems deliberate, it seems premeditated, it seems intentional.” This will be Jordan’s mode of oversight from his Judiciary Committee perch, lobbing unfounded allegations. “Make no mistake about it, the Biden administration is carrying out its plan,” he alleged on Wednesday, saying that “crimes committed by illegal alien trespassers and … overwhelmed local resources … are all part of [the] federal government’s plan.” Again, this is not oversight, it is demagoguery.
Jordan, in fact, is a classic example of a member of Congress who has demonstrated contempt for congressional oversight—except when he wants to abuse it for partisan purposes. That is clear from Jordan’s refusal to cooperate with the Jan. 6 House Select Committee’s investigations and, indeed, his own participation in the Trump-led attempted coup on the peaceful transition of power following the 2020 election.
The Jan. 6 committee’s final report describes Jordan as “a significant player” in Trump’s efforts to illegally overturn the 2020 election results. The evidence presented by the committee in their report lays bare how Jordan was “personally involved in the acts and circumstances of January 6th” and why he, along with a handful of other members, “should be questioned in a public forum about their advance knowledge of and role in President Trump’s plan to prevent the peaceful transition of power.”
Jordan, who wants to subpoena and question witnesses in his congressional investigations, himself ignored a congressional subpoena and flat-out refused to be questioned in a congressional investigation about the blatant attacks on our democracy.
Jordan has yet to account publicly for his involvement—he twice failed to appear for deposition testimony before the committee, instead responding via a series of letters setting out a “variety of objections.” In one such letter, Jordan contended that the committee’s request for him to appear was “outside the bounds of any legitimate inquiry, violates core Constitutional principles, and would serve to further erode legislative norms.” This was untrue and represented a series of false excuses to avoid accountability for his actions.
Appearing in response to the request for his testimony would have been the proper action, an action he refused to take, but no doubt expects others to undertake in the hearings he calls.
Beyond his refusal to testify about his own involvement in Jan. 6, Jordan’s general views and actions promote falsehoods and encourage attacks on legitimate institutions. As others have written, Jordan engaged in “a systematic disinformation campaign” of falsehoods about the election processes and institutions he vowed to protect; he was involved in “early post-election messaging strategy” and “participated in numerous post-election meetings in which senior White House officials, Rudolph Giuliani, and others, discussed strategies for challenging the election, chief among them claims that the election had been tainted by fraud”; and he advocated that state legislatures could appoint their own electors, fake electors, a legal theory in contravention of the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act.
But his actions intent on stymieing the transition of power on Jan. 6 were even more sinister. As early as November 2020, Jordan had been having discussions with White House officials about Vice President Mike Pence’s role on Jan. 6. Jordan, along with other Republican members of Congress from the Freedom Caucus, attended a White House meeting on Dec. 21, 2020, in which the plan to have Pence “affect the outcome of the election was disclosed and discussed,” according to the committee report. But Jordan’s involvement went further than merely attending meetings. He led them.
On Jan. 2, 2021, Jordan led a conference call with Trump and other members of Congress where the group “discussed strategies for delaying the January 6th joint session.” The group also “discussed issuing social media posts encouraging President Trump’s supporters to ‘march to the Capitol’ on the 6th.” These events involved nothing less than an effort to steal a presidential election for the first time in our history and helped lead to the insurrectionist attack on the Capitol.
Jordan’s communication with Trump and the White House endured right up until at least the evening of Jan. 6. Jordan himself has acknowledged that he forwarded a message to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Jan. 5, advising that Pence should “call out all the electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.” He has also admitted that he spoke to Trump “more than once” on Jan. 6, though he has provided inconsistent public statements on the exact number of conversations and has been less forthcoming on what the two spoke about. The Jan. 6 committee report also states that Jordan spoke at least twice with Rudy Giuliani on the evening of Jan 6, prior to the joint session resuming. Details of those conversations remain unknown, but “during that time, Giuliani has testified, he was attempting to reach Members of Congress after the joint session resumed to encourage them to continue objecting to Joe Biden’s electoral votes.”
Allegations about Jordan’s involvement in coverups are not new. Jordan served as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University from 1986 to 1994 at a time when the team physician for OSU athletes was engaged in widespread sexual abuse of OSU student-athletes. An independent OSU investigation released in 2019 found that the physician, Richard Strauss, had sexually abused at least 177 male students during his 20-year tenure as an athletic and student health doctor at OSU.
The OSU report found that 22 coaches confirmed to investigators that they were aware of rumors and/or complaints about Strauss. Several former OSU wrestlers said in on-the-record interviews and in testimony before the Ohio statehouse in 2020 that they had either directly talked to Jordan about the situation or that he should have known about it as it was an “open secret” on the team. In 2019, a former wrestling referee said he reported sexual misconduct involving Strauss directly to Jordan.
Jordan called accusations that he helped cover up sexual abuse “false,” saying: “I never knew about any type of abuse.” Jordan accused one of the wrestlers of having a “vendetta” and, in a 2018 interview with Fox News, suggested the “lies” were “sequenced and choreographed” by “the left.” It’s all part of the Jordan playbook in his congressional role as well: Deflect, distract, and distort reality.
Jordan as a self-professed truth-seeker is an oxymoron, given the Ohio State allegation, his stonewalling of the congressional investigation into Trump’s attempted coup and the attack on the Capitol, and his refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena from the committee.
Unfortunately, Jordan is not only chairing the House Judiciary Committee. As part of his alleged quest to “get the truth,” he is also chairing a new subcommittee, named the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. This new committee shows every sign of preparing to abuse congressional powers in order to undertake partisan attacks on the Biden administration, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement bodies.
It is Jordan’s responsibility to come fully clean about himself, including his active participation in the greatest attack on our democracy since the Civil War. Until he does, the last thing he should be doing is investigating anyone else.