Trumps loyal ally will block, deflect, and argue that impeachment evidence is lacking and challenge the legitimacy of proceedings
Perhaps the solitary defeat still stings. Jim Jordan won 150 matches and lost just one during a school wrestling career in which he was Ohio state champion four times. Now a politician, Jordan is less a wrestler and more a bare-knuckle fighter in the corner of Donald Trump and lashing out at the presidents enemies.
The world is about to become a lot more familiar with the Republican congressmans aggressive style when televised impeachment hearings get under way on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.
Democrats in the House of Representatives will seek to paint a clear and vivid picture of misconduct by the US president, who allegedly pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival in return for the release of military aid. It will be Jordans job to block, deflect, argue that evidence for impeachment is lacking and challenge the very legitimacy of the proceedings.
Jordan, so unswervingly loyal that in April he told CNN he had never heard Trump lie, is seen as a perfect spear for the Republican attack and a shield for its defense. He is likely to relish the spotlight and play to the cameras, aware that the TV-obsessed president will be consuming every moment.
In the iconic Godfather film, theres a famous phrase that kicks off the mafia war, Going to the mattresses, said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. Thats what the Republicans are preparing for and Jim Jordan is one of their heavies.
Jordan, 55, will be in attack dog mode, Jacobs added, an approach aimed at reassuring the Republican base by impugning the character of witnesses and the process. But he added: Jim Jordans style of brash, offensive conduct risks reinforcing the suburban backlash that we saw last week [in elections] against hard-edged GOP partisanship.
The public hearings offer both Democrats and Republicans on the House intelligence committee the chance to mould public opinion about Trumps dealings with Ukraine. All three witnesses this week top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor, deputy assistant secretary of state George Kent and former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch have given consistent, damning accounts in closed-door sessions.
Aware of the need to grip the TV audience from the start, Democrats are likely to ask Taylor to dive straight into the most serious misdemeanours. But Republicans will counter with four main defenses of Trumps conduct, according to a memo drafted by Republican staff and obtained by the Axios website and CNN.
First, it contends, a memorandum of Trumps July phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure. Second, Zelenskiy and Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call. Third, The Ukrainian government was not aware of the hold on US assistance during the call. Fourth, the military aid was unfrozen on 11 September.
The 18-page memo, circulated to committee members, also argues: To appropriately understand the events in question and most importantly, assess the Presidents state of mind during his interaction with [Ukrainian] President Zelensky context is necessary.
The top Republican on the House oversight committee, Jordan has temporarily switched to the intelligence panel along with his general counsel, Steve Castor, who is expected to interrogate the witnesses and challenge their credibility with a charge of hearsay because they did not speak to the president directly but were relying on secondhand or thirdhand knowledge.
A Republican official told Reuters that Taylor is admitting that he had no firsthand or secondhand knowledge of any of the developments. Yet Democrats are presenting him as their star witness for this whole endeavour to impeach the president.
Above all, if their questioning of the special counsel Robert Mueller last July or the transcripts of the closed-door hearings are any guide, Jordan and his colleagues will engage in grandstanding with speeches that complain about due process and, taking their cue from Trump, portray the whole impeachment effort as a partisan sham an effort by the deep state, or swamp, to stage a coup against the duly elected president.
They have put forward their own list of witnesses they would like to call, including former vice-president Joe Bidens son Hunter, whose business dealings in Ukraine are the subject of baseless allegations of corruption, and the unnamed whistleblower who first brought Trumps phone call to national attention.
Kurt Bardella, a political commentator and former spokesman and senior adviser for the House oversight committee from 2009-13, said: Republicans will try to disrupt the hearings and make motions to subpoena people like Hunter Biden. Theyll do everything they can to stop the proceedings even starting, and to promote conspiracy theories that insulate Trump.
But is there a limit to this policy of obfuscations and gimmicks? How far can that really take them? Do they run the risk of overreach and looking like theyre afraid of the witness? They know at the end of the day that if the conversation coming out of Wednesday is about Ambassador Taylors testimony, theyve lost. If its about process, conspiracy theories and whistleblowers, then theyve won.
Bardella noted that Jordan used to be a strong defender of oversight, congressional authority and whistleblower protections but has now moved in the opposite direction.
Jim Jordan has shown himself amenable to being the presidents primary public defender, he added. He has shown he is willing to be a combative, effective spokesperson and he understands these hearings are a TV show.
At the end of the day, the success or failure of these hearings depends on how they play on television and almost more than any other member, Jordan understands that.