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Jim Jordan: An Absurd and Dangerous Choice for House Speaker
Here are nine of the countless reasons he can’t be trusted with U.S. democracy.
TWO YEARS AGO, I called for Congress to punish and even expel lawmakers who betrayed America by trying to overturn the 2020 election. Now a majority of House Republicans have chosen Jim Jordan, one of Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” ringleaders, as their preferred candidate for speaker of the House.
How dare they even think about it?
The speaker of the House is right behind the vice president in the presidential line of succession. A speaker might have to preside over a disputed presidential election. A speaker in theory could even manufacture disputes by leading his or her party to reject state electors, an amped-up version of what we saw congressional Republicans do on January 6, 2021.
Jordan is an absurd and dangerous choice for that reason and too many others to count. But let’s make a start:
First and foremost, he was a huge and helpful fan of then-President Trump’s plot to stay in office after losing in 2020. Five days after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, Trump even awarded Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Or, as the AP headlined it, “Trump rewards GOP ally…” The 2022 elections suggested America was moving away from election denialism. A Jordan speakership would inject it right back into the GOP mainstream, with all the risks that poses to democracy.
Six days after the mob attack on the Capitol, one day after his medal was bestowed, Jordan railed against Democrats for impeaching Trump a second time—“eight days before there will be a peaceful transfer of power just like there has been every other time in American history.” Never mind that terrifying riot that led to five deaths, over 350 arrests, 700 years of prison sentences so far, and two criminal cases against Trump.
A few months later, in mid-2021, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected Jordan as a member of the House January 6th Committee. The nation needed a serious inquiry and he was more interested in defending Trump than investigating what happened. When the committee subpoenaed him in late 2021 to testify about what Rep. Eric Swalwell recently called “one of the greatest crimes ever committed in America,” Jordan refused to comply.
It’s highly unlikely Jordan will suddenly turn into a statesman. In a 2017 Politico interview, former House Speaker John Boehner unforgettably described his fellow Ohioan this way: “Jordan was a terrorist as a legislator going back to his days in the Ohio House and Senate. . . . A terrorist. A legislative terrorist.” Boehner returned to this point in April 2021, when he had a book coming out about his time in Congress. CBS interviewer John Dickerson asked him about calling some lawmakers “political terrorists” and Boehner replied: “Oh, yeah, Jim Jordan especially, my colleague from Ohio. I just never saw a guy who spent more time tearing things apart—never building anything, never putting anything together.”
In late 2018, Jordan and other MAGA Republicans convinced Trump to hold out for border wall funding in a budget dispute with Democrats. The upshot was a painful 35-day federal government shutdown, the longest ever, followed by a budget that did not include the border money. (Trump would later obtain the money by declaring a “national emergency” that allowed him to redirect money from the Pentagon budget to his wall.)
This year, in the prolonged January balloting for the speakership that elevated Kevin McCarthy, Jordan voted for McCarthy after getting what he wanted: a new “weaponization of government” subcommittee, led by Jordan, to look into his claims of “blatant double standards in federal law enforcement,” as he put it in his recent letter to colleagues asking for their votes for speaker. So far the committee has been a one-sided political exercise (“starkly partisan, occasionally surreal,” as Time put it) that schedules mostly conservative witnesses, some of them questionable; doesn’t always share material with Democrats; and doesn’t always let them ask questions.
Now, with the federal government funded only through November 17, Jordan plans more highly partisan, likely illegal, and definitely expensive demands for the next round of negotiations. He told Punchbowl News he wants to eliminate funding that would be used “to process or release into the country any new migrants” even though, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent observed, federal law requires that the government process requests for asylum. As for detaining all migrants awaiting hearings, that would mean spending “billions of additional dollars” to scale up facilities, Doris Meissner—former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service—told Sargent. So much for Jordan’s speaker-campaign claim to be a leading proponent of fiscal discipline.
Jordan is also touting his role in delivering “the most significant legislative accomplishment this Congress: the strongest immigration and border enforcement bill ever.” Only one problem with that: it was a purely partisan bill that never had any chance of becoming law under divided government. Still, as MSNBC’s Steve Benen pointed out, it did create fundraising opportunities and grist for the conservative media mills: “For the would-be House speaker, no other ingredients were necessary” to claim a huge win.
Jordan keeps asking Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis to turn over materials in her massive, ongoing case against Trump and all who helped him scheme to overturn the 2020 election, and she keeps rebuffing him. “You are abusing your authority as Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary to attempt to obstruct and interfere with a Georgia criminal prosecution,” she told him last week in response to his second letter demanding certain materials. She also said she doesn’t work for him and he doesn’t seem to understand the separation of powers. Alternatively, as former Chicago Sun-Times CEO and current radio host Edwin Eisendrath suggested to me Saturday, Jordan does get it but sees his real job as supplying red meat to fuel fundraising and TV talking points. Just like the 2023 House immigration bill to nowhere.
THE DEVASTATING JANUARY 6TH MOB ATTACK on the Capitol hit home for me all over again in the last few days when I happened on a contemporaneous account that Derek T. Muller, now a law professor at Notre Dame, wrote on his blog. His “running log” of events that fateful day contains no video violence or bombshell testimonies, yet it is extremely disturbing to read even now.
Muller is steeped in election law, the Constitution, and the congressional history of counting electoral votes. As the long day and night unfold, he is shocked and disconcerted, not just by the attack, but also by the volume of objections from House and Senate Republicans to certified state election results in service to a candidate who won’t concede.
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“It is hard to overstate the impressive precedents being developed in live time,” Muller wrote at 1:17 p.m.—nearly 45 minutes before Trump loyalists, who had already stormed through police lines at the Capitol, broke windows and climbed into the Capitol itself.
What happened on January 6th was not what Muller had urged or expected of Republicans in an op-ed published that morning. “As I wrote in my New York Times op-ed, Democratic objections [to slates of electors from specific states] in recent years were naive at best, shameless at worst, and Republican objections were different in advance of the cause of a candidate who refused to concede,” he said in his blog, adding that the refusal to concede was particularly salient given what Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell called the “failed insurrection.”
At 7 a.m., Muller tuned back in to discover that while the objection to counting Pennsylvania’s electors had failed, Republicans favored it 138-64. “If 2005 was a protest vote among 31 objectors”—when a small subset of congressional Democrats objected to George W. Bush’s slate of twenty electors from Ohio—“the protest has swelled in size and scope and starts to threaten future electoral votes, precisely as some (in the Senate, mostly) warned.”
Muller wrote that he had hoped and anticipated that most of the GOP posturing, fundraising and “primary election self-preservation,” would end by the day of the official count. He was wrong. “No such fortune,” he lamented. “Shameless, escalated.”
Days before any votes had been taken on a new House speaker, I said all candidates—even and especially Jordan—“should have to pledge to accept state-certified election results, from president to Senate, governor, House, and right on down the ballot.”
Fifty-five Republicans voted against Jordan in a private ballot last week. If they are considering caving to end the protracted paralysis in the House, they should be tough bargainers, just like Jordan, and extract two public promises: No demands so unrealistic they guarantee a government shutdown, and unless there’s rock-solid evidence of election-changing fraud, no rejection of results certified by states. Even when you lose.
I’d be stunned in a good way if House Republicans, so many of them in thrall to Trump and averse to compromise, make those conditions of their votes. But for the sake of their country, they really should.