How Jim Jordan, a Fighter Aligned With Trump, Wrestled His Way to Power

The Ohio Republican is known for punching back against anyone who tries to bring him down.

How Jim Jordan, a Fighter Aligned With Trump, Wrestled His Way to Power

The Ohio Republican is defined by his tendency to punch back. Whether it's against accusations that he was negligent in a sex-abuse scandal or efforts to prosecute former President George W. Bush, he has fought back.

Representative Jim Jordan has made a name for himself in Congress with bare-knuckled partisan tactics and a penchant for picking fights with his adversaries.Credit...Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times

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Luke Broadwater

April 16, 2023

WASHINGTON - When Jim Jordan appealed to donors during a recent fundraiser for the House Freedom Caucus in Washington, he cited his fight with Alvin L. Bragg - the Manhattan prosecutor that has criminally charged the former president Donald J. Trump - as an example of the type of pursuits their money would help support.

The New York Times obtained audio from a private event held in Tennessee by Mr. Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He told donors that the district attorney of Manhattan had used federal funds to bring charges against the former president, who was innocent. Then, when we began our investigation, the government took us to court. "That's just how insane it has gotten." We want to thank you for your hard-earned cash.

The latest example was how the Ohio Republican of the right has risen to the top in Congress. He has made his name with bare-knuckled tactics, a tendency to pick fights with his opponents, and then used his increased profile to raise funds for his campaign and accumulate power.

According to interviews for this article, when a sexual abuse scandal threatened to ruin his political career, Jordan responded in a characteristic way, the details of which had not previously been reported. He called the parents of a wrestler and asked them to convince their son to drop the accusation that Jordan knew about abuse but did nothing.

Jordan led a group of hard-right legislators who pressed John A. Boehner, the Republican Speaker of Ohio, to resign. He co-founded Freedom Caucus. Boehner called Mr. Jordan a 'terrorist' in the legislative and political realm.

In an interview, Mr. Jordan stated that he did not try to be a pain in the side. I just went to do what we promised the voters. The previous Republican leaders didn't seem to be doing as they should.

In the weeks before the mob attack of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Jordan was the leader in Congress when Mr. Trump required a group of loyal foot soldiers who would question and undermine the faith in the results from the 2020 elections.

Jordan, now 59 years old, uses his position on the panel of judges to defend Mr. Trump, his most important patron in politics, and to attack those who oppose him, such as the Biden administration and Democrats, or Mr. Bragg. Mr. Bragg has filed 34 criminal charges against Mr. Trump.

On Monday, Mr. Jordan's panel will meet in New York, to take on Mr. Bragg in his own backyard, for an hearing to highlight crime in New York under his leadership. Mr. Jordan accused Mr. Bragg advancing "radical anti-victim, pro-crime policies" while pursuing an argument against Mr. Trump which he claimed constitutes "interference" in the 2024 Presidential race. This is the kind of dramatic maneuver for which Mr. Jordan has become known. He almost never wears a suit and speaks with a rapid cadence reminiscent of an auctioneer.

In eight House terms, Mr. Jordan has never been the primary sponsor of any bill that was passed into law. The Center for Effective Lawmaking consistently ranks him as one of the least effective Members of Congress.

Mr. Jordan also chairs a powerful subcommittee, created by right-wing Republicans at their insistence to examine what they refer to as the "weaponization" of the government against conservatives. This committee has not yet produced any new explosive revelations. This is despite weeks worth of investigations, a budget close to $20 million and scores staff members working on uncovering wrongdoing.

He measures his success in different ways. No member of Congress has pushed the House Republicans further to the right than he has, forcing the mainstream and establishment members to cede more ground to the archconservatives.

His most brutal tactics were reserved for Democrats. He fought them every step of the way as they investigated Mr. Trump. His hearings today are marked by a level partisanship, hostility and vitriol that is remarkable even in the hyper-polarized world of today.

At the last meeting of the subcommittee on weaponization, Stacey Plaskett, the Virgin Islands' top Democrat delegate, rose and threw a paper at a Republican, who had given it to her as proof.

Ms. Plaskett later said Mr. Jordan's approach had created a 'melodramatic, grievance-riddled, wannabe-daytime-drama' atmosphere.

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These same tactics have made him a hero among the rank and file members of the House G.O.P.

Mike Johnson, the Republican from Louisiana who supported Mr. Jordan in his bid for Congress, and became the architect of the Electoral College opposition, said that he was a member of Congress "who is probably the most widely respected". He can appeal to the conservatives in the conference as well as the rest of us.

Elise Stefanik, New York's No. The No. 3 Republican, who has recently shifted right and become a Trump supporter, called Mr. Jordan her mentor.

"Jim helped build my confidence," Ms. Stefanik stated.

Mr. Jordan used his influence with the hard-right to increase his own. During Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s long-running battle to win over far-right lawmakers in January, Mr. McCarthy accepted a number demands that empowered Mr. Jordan. These included promising to create the weaponization committee and to give it the same powers and funding as the Select Committee that investigated the attack on Capitol Hill Jan. 6, 2021.


According to documents examined by The New York Times, Mr. Jordan's budget is $19 million. This represents a substantial increase over the $7.6 millions Democrats spent on the Judiciary Committee last year. He has also been pursuing 237 witness, of which 88 work for the government. In recent weeks, he increased the staff of his committee to over 60 members. This includes hiring two former F.B.I. agents. Agents whom Mr. Jordan thinks will provide a roadmap for how to investigate this agency.

The Times has obtained many of the subpoenas and 163 letters that he sent in secret. Among those receiving the records demands are technology companies, nonprofit groups and university-affiliated researchers.

The committee received nearly 115,000 documents.

Jordan claims that the goal is to bring so many "facts" to the table, it will be necessary to pass legislation in order to overhaul the Justice Department, and the F.B.I. It will be overwhelmingly obvious. If the agencies do not change, says Mr. Jordan, then it is time to cut funding for federal agencies of law enforcement.

Jordan's committee would be involved in any Republican-led impeachment. Jordan resisted when asked whether Republicans should try to prosecute President Biden for serious crimes. He said, "That's a matter for the whole conference."

Jordan also admitted that there was another objective at play, saying to a conservative audience in 2017 that the investigations would "help frame the 2024 race" in a manner that benefits Trump.

Those on the right who were initially concerned that Mr. Jordan would not produce any new revelations have changed their mind after his confrontation with Mr. Bragg.

Mike Davis, the founder of conservative Article III Project and a former senior Republican staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Jim Jordan had a slow start. He described Mr. Jordan’s efforts to pursue Mr. Bragg's case as 'critical' and'very effective'.

Mr. Jordan credits his competitiveness to the father he considers his hero, who coached Little League Baseball and wrestler teams and taught his son conservative values. Mr. Jordan was a wrestling enthusiast who devoted himself to the sport with an unwavering focus. He achieved a high-school record of 150-1. He remembers the loss he suffered in high school vividly and says that it still eats at him.

He won two N.C.A.A. wrestling titles while competing for the University of Wisconsin. He won two wrestling titles including one against John Smith, the arguably greatest wrestler in America. Jordan claims to have applied the lessons he gained from wrestling in his current role.

He drills his talking points, just as he would wrestle moves, to ensure he can use them with maximum effectiveness.

"I see it as a wrestling contest," says Mr. Jordan. 'I will try to be as prepared as possible. You can't just do it on the fly.

Jordan values Mr. Trump's fighting spirit the most. While traveling through his deeply red district, Jordan was recently asked by Republican supporters if Mr. Trump is still electable. Or if it's time to get away from Mr. Trump in favor of a different presidential nominee for 2024. He said the same thing each time: stick with the former president.

'I am 100 percent in support of President Trump', Mr. Jordan said to a local businessman in Mansfield Ohio, at a meeting in his office. I like his fighting style.

Jordan, a former president's ardent and early ally, has used Mr. Trump to gain considerable power. Mr. Trump intervened privately after Mr. Jordan failed to challenge Mr. McCarthy for the position as minority leader in 2018. He convinced Mr. McCarthy that Mr. Jordan should be given a committee post.

Mr. Jordan had just finished working out in the House gym, when Mr. McCarthy called him to offer him the Republican position of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. This partnership has lasted until today.

Mick Mulvaney was the former representative who represented Mr. Jordan in the House Freedom Caucus before becoming Mr. Trump’s budget director. He said that Mr. Jordan’s rise is an indication of how Republicans are moving to their right.

Mulvaney stated that the party was now more interested in things Jim had been interested in since the beginning. The party has come to him.

Jordan pays tribute to the former president

He said: 'Because President Trump is in office, we have become a populist, conservative party. This is where we should always have been.'

Mr. Jordan is a "country boy" who likes to call himself that. His financial disclosure forms reveal he's not very wealthy. His $174,000 salary as a member of Congress is the main source of his income. He and his wife Polly live in an 1837 house on eight acres, where Mr. Jordan mows the lawn and does yard work.

His close relationship with Donald Trump has elevated Mr. Jordan's star status in conservative media, including Fox News. And his political operation is reaping the financial rewards, as his fund-raising efforts have increased by 20 times. In 2016, Mr. Jordan’s campaign raised $732,000, but during the last electoral cycle it brought in $14 million.



The abuse scandal, which came to light last year, concerning Jordan's tenure as a young coach at Ohio State University threatened to ruin his career.

Mark Coleman, a former U.F.C. wrestler, is one of five former wrestlers who have come forward to testify. Mark Coleman, a former U.F.C. champion, claimed that Mr. Jordan knew about the abuse committed by Richard Strauss. Strauss was accused of abusing male student athletes for two decades.

The conservative public relations company aligned with Jordan responded by circulating statements of backing Mr. Jordan, and claiming the accusers are'seeing dollars signs'

Mr. Coleman quickly retracted his statement, and issued a second one stating that he was merely referring to the extent of Dr. Strauss’s predatory behaviour at the university. He clarified that no one had reported a specific claim of abuse to Mr. Jordan.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mr. Coleman stated that he still stood by his statements. However, he said a second statement was only made after Mr. Jordan called Mr. Coleman's parents to try to convince him to alter his story. The lawyer who represented Mr. Jordan during the scandal didn't dispute the story but claimed that the conversation took place after the parents had approached the congressman in an event to ask him about what he said.