Monday, July 22

Opinion: Jim Jordan should never be House speaker. Here’s why

When House Republicans in January chose Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker, that was bad enough: The highest ranking official under the Capitol dome was someone who’d been complicit in then-President Trump’s stoking the worst attack on that very building since its burning by the British in 1814.

Replacing the Bakersfield Republican with Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan would be so much worse.

Stipple-style portrait illustration of Jackie Calmes

Opinion Columnist

Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes brings a critical eye to the national political scene. She has decades of experience covering the White House and Congress.

Here’s the key difference between them: Trump’s “My Kevin” McCarthy played along as the defeated president spun up his MAGA militia with false claims of Democrats’ election steal. But Jordan — he plotted along with the insurrectionist in chief.

Jordan’s name appears 44 times in the final report of the House committee that investigated the tragedy of Jan. 6, 2021, and the conspiring that led up to it. The report documents his White House meetings and repeated calls with Trump, including during the Capitol attack, and his contacts before and after with Trump’s lackeys. The committee recommended that the Justice Department investigate Jordan, along with McCarthy and several other House Republicans, and that the House Ethics Committee consider sanctioning him for ignoring its subpoenas.

You read that right: The man who wants to lead the House refused to voluntarily tell one of its committees what he knew about its desecration, then scorned a subpoena and trumpeted his defiance in a fundraising campaign.

Jordan’s effrontery is pretty rich. Now, as chair of the House Judiciary Committee and its anti-Biden “weaponization of government” subcommittee, he’s been only too happy to subpoena people, including Biden Cabinet chiefs and administration officials.

But what could be ahead is more egregious: If Republicans choose Jordan over the other speaker candidate, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the person second in line to the presidency would be a guy who actively sought to overturn a presidential election that even Trump administration officials deemed “the most secure in American history.”

Two days after the 2020 election, Jordan starred at a “Stop the Steal” rally at the Capitol in Pennsylvania, one of the pro-Biden states central to coup plotters’ scheming. On TV, he repeatedly claimed that the election was stolen. He was in cahoots with Trump officials about goading then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject some Biden electoral votes when Pence presided over the certification of the election in Congress on Jan. 6. Jordan attended a pivotal White House planning meeting on Dec. 21, and that month Trump cited the “fighter” Jordan’s support in haranguing Justice Department leaders to back the false voting fraud allegations.

There’s more: On Jan. 2, 2021, Jordan led — led! — a conference call with Trump and a few other Republicans to strategize about the certification vote as well as a social media effort to mobilize a simultaneous MAGA “march to the Capitol.” Trump and Jordan then spoke privately for 18 minutes.

In the hours after the insurrection, with several people dead and scores of police injured, Jordan continued to coordinate with Trump and Co. to upend the election certification. And after Jan. 6, he spoke with Trump advisors about pardons for implicated Republicans.

On Jan. 11, Trump cheapened the esteemed Presidential Medal of Freedom, intended to recognize “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States,” by privately awarding it to his accomplice, Jordan.

You can read it all in the Jan. 6 committee report, thanks to other Republicans’ sworn testimony, texts and phone records. No thanks to Jordan: The loudmouth remains uncharacteristically mute about his and Trump’s roles on Jan. 6. The would-be speaker won’t speak.

As former Rep. Liz Cheney, the Republican vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, told a Minneapolis audience last Thursday: “Jim Jordan knew more about what Donald Trump had planned for Jan. 6 than any other member of the House of Representatives.”

Should Republicans choose him as speaker, Cheney added, “There would no longer be any possible way to argue that a group of elected Republicans could be counted on to defend the Constitution.”

Of course Trump, the would-be Terminator of the Constitution, has endorsed Jordan.

You might think that the moderates among House Republicans — there are a few — would be repelled by that endorsement and, fretful of a backlash in their swing districts, unite to prevent Jordan from winning. Why not take a page from the eight McCarthy mutineers, who allied with Democrats to oust him?

Instead, indications are that the so-called moderates will fall in line behind Jordan if he wins most other Republicans’ votes. The caucus could vote Wednesday. However, to avoid a repeat of the party’s embarrassment in January, when it took 15 ballots to select McCarthy, Republicans say they won’t hold a full House vote until they’re sure that Jordan, Scalise or someone else — on Monday, McCarthy said he’d be open to being recycled as speaker has the necessary majority to win.

The wrangling to get to that point could take days. At the same time, the international crisis ignited by the war between Israel and Hamas has given Republicans a sense of urgency to pick a leader, as unleadable as they are. Until they do, the headless House is all but paralyzed.

After the 2006 congressional elections that brought Jordan to Washington, I met with a top aide to the House Republican leadership for a background briefing on the newcomers. He quickly brought up Jordan: “Watch out for that guy, he’s bad news.” His reputation as a self-promoting attack dog in Ohio’s legislature preceded him.

Neither I nor my source could have imagined back then that Jordan might one day be the favorite for House speaker. And after he’d joined an effort to overturn a presidential election.

What? Overturn an election? We were such innocents.


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