Local Congressman Jim Jordan in spotlight for role defending president

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Jim Jordan in spotlight for role in defending president

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

WASHINGTON — To U.S. Rep Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, it’s breathtakingly simple.

He says Democrats went to great lengths to keep Donald Trump from becoming president, even hiring people to compile what he claims was a phony dossier about Trump in order to get the FBI to spy on Trump. When that didn’t work, they – with the help of the Justice Department - launched a bogus investigation of the 45th President, he says.

All of this, he said, has been part of a “crazy” effort with one goal: To kick Trump out of office.

What does he see as his job in all of it? Stopping it.

As the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Jordan, a seven–term congressman from Urbana, demonstrated his willingness to do just that last week. He and fellow Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows spent seven hours sparring with Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen on national TV this week. Cohen, who in May will go to prison for lying to Congress, financial crimes and campaign finance violations, testified about several improprieties by the president, including claiming he helped Trump make improper hush-money payments to a woman who threatened to expose their affair.

Jordan’s prominence on the live broadcast coverage that day caused him to become the third top search on twitter. The comments about him providing a snapshot of what a polarizing political figure Jordan has become.

Critics said he’s a Trump sycophant or an ideologue who too often insists on seeking a perfect outcome rather than one that is simply good enough - a stance that can hurt his own political party. To supporters of President Trump he’s a rock star.

David Niven, a political professor at the University of Cincinnati, said Jordan not only appeals to the conservative base, he almost “exudes” what they’re all about. He’s seen as a fierce and dogged defender of their values. But the downside is that while Jordan represents much of the GOP base’s belief system, “he’s still not getting to set the agenda” in part because what Nivens calls “his limitless commitment to one’s own position.”

“He’s like the poker player who bets everything he has on every single hand,” Nivens said. “He’ll never win in the end that way, but everybody pays attention to you every step of the way.”

Jordan rejects the interpretation that he has a do–or–die approach. He said he’s worked with Democrats on some issues; former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich was a guest at Jordan’s daughter’s wedding. But he said some things are worth the fight.

“There are certain fundamental things you’ve got to fight for,” he said. “I’m not going to compromise on my position on the sanctity of human life. I’m not going to work with Democrats or Republicans to ever raise taxes too high. I want to lower them.”

Nor, he said, does he focus on the fact that he’s become a symbol of everything that Democrats — and even some more moderate Republicans — hate. Instead, he said, his focus on holding federal agencies accountable. He is a critic of the Internal Revenue Service and claims it has singled out conservative groups.

“If that means some people don’t like me — and it’s obvious if you read some of the Twitter comments— that’s what comes with it,” he said.

He insists that he “wasn’t angry” when he was questioning Cohen. He just wanted the American public to realize that the witness Democrats had asked to testify was deeply flawed. To emphasize it, he and Meadows sent a lengthy letter to Attorney General William Barr Thursday accusing Cohen of lying in his most recent testimony.

To supporters, Jordan is well-suited to defend Trump from what they believe are overblown scandals.

Combined ShapeCaption
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), left, and Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) talk at a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee where Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, gave testimony, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 27, 2019. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Credit: ERIN SCHAFF

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), left, and Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) talk at a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee where Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, gave testimony, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 27, 2019. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Credit: ERIN SCHAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), left, and Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) talk at a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee where Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, gave testimony, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 27, 2019. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Credit: ERIN SCHAFF

Credit: ERIN SCHAFF

Barry Bennett, a GOP consultant who has worked for several Ohio Republican lawmakers, said both Jordan and Trump “share a healthy disgust for Washington.”

“I think they’re united by what they have in common,” he said, saying their mutual hatred of Washington is “the glue that holds them together.”

Tom Zawistowski, a Portage County Tea Party leader, said Jordan “is in the mold of Donald Trump.” He’s not a billionaire, Zawistowski said, but, like Trump “is rock solid on promises.”

To critics, Jordan is doing what he’s always tried to do: Stop things.

They say he effectively helped stop House Speaker John Boehner’s career, contributing to the Ohio Republican’s decision to retire in 2015. (Jordan says Boehner’s decision was his own.)

They blame him in part for a 2013 government shutdown that resulted from a conservative effort to force the repeal of Obamacare.

And they point to a myriad of other forced votes and conservative rebellions that provided a near-perpetual headache to GOP leaders during their time in the majority.

“He talks about government as if it’s a bad thing, and it’s just astonishing to me – he has worked in government for over 20 years,” said Janet Garrett, who ran against Jordan three times. “He doesn’t want the government to work, so he doesn’t’ work for anything that would help his constituents because that would undermine his argument.”

“He’s got the anti-Dale Carnegie approach to life,” Nivens said. “How to lose friends and infuriate people.”

Last year former wrestlers at Ohio State University accused him of turning a blind eye to allegations of sexual abuse by an Ohio State doctor while Jordan worked there as an assistant wrestling coach there from 1987 to 1995. Jordan said he knew nothing of such allegations, denying them forcefully and consistently and hiring a crisis P.R. firm to help him fight the allegations.

He won re–election this past fall. Garrett, his Democratic opponent, said the claims against Jordan regarding his time at OSU were not what drew donors and support to her. It was Jordan’s irate speeches about the Justice Department on the House floor that turned people her way.

Jordan ran for House Speaker in a closed door meeting of House Republicans last November. He lost 159 to 43.

“Even though he didn’t win, he was clearly willing to take the risk and do the work it takes to become speaker,” said Zawistowski, who said “if Jim Jordan could be speaker during Trump’s second term, I would expect him to run for President of the United States.”

Paul Beck, a professor emeritus of political science at The Ohio State University, said despite his notoriety, Jordan is a polarizing figure in his caucus. Detractors say “he’s a cheap shot artist and doesn’t really care much about party.”

But Jordan, he said, may be more influential now that he’s in the minority.

Certainly, his new role gives him a bigger megaphone.

“In some ways, it frees them of responsibility,” he said of Jordan and his fellow conservatives. “They can just tee off.”

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