Belligerent and dismissive, the ranking member of the House oversight committee took on a Trump-like role
From the first words of his opening statement, Jim Jordan, top Republican on the House oversight committee, set the tone for his party’s approach to Michael Cohen: belligerent, dismissive and utterly uninterested in anything Donald Trump’s private lawyer for the past decade had to say.
“Mr Chairman, here we go,” the congressman from Ohio spat out in front of a packed committee chamber, having stripped down to his white shirt and yellow tie to signal he meant business. “Your first big hearing, your first announced witness, Michael Cohen … a guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress.”
Jordan adopted a strategy in Wednesday’s high-profile grilling of Cohen that closely echoed Trump’s own stance towards the multiple investigations that now besiege him: bully your assailant into submission. With a grin on his face, Jordan asked Cohen how long he had worked in the White House, knowing full well that the lawyer never had.
“That’s the point isn’t it, Mr Cohen? You wanted to work at the White House. You didn’t get brought to the dance.”
Jordan proved himself not just to be Trump’s bully-in-chief for the purposes of congressional hearings, he also matched the US president’s affection for conspiracy theories. He accused the Democratic leadership of the oversight committee of taking orders from Lanny Davis, Cohen’s current attorney who is a figure of hatred among rightwing Republicans, having been Bill Clinton’s special counsel in the 1990s.
“Lanny Davis choreographed the whole darn thing, the Clintons’ best friend,” he said.
Jordan’s pugnacious performance lit up social media, though not for reasons he would have liked. The representative for Ohio’s fourth congressional district trended on Twitter as users posted articles reporting allegations that he had failed to take action against the sexual molestation of students while working as assistant wrestling coach at Ohio state university from 1986 to 1994.
Last April, the university announced that it was investigating claims that the team’s longstanding doctor, the late Richard Strauss, had sexually abused team members over years. Several former wrestlers have come forward to allege that Jordan knew about what was being done to them but did nothing to stop it.
Typical of the Twitter storm was a post from Christine Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter:
Jordan’s one-track approach – character assassination for Cohen without addressing any of the claims leveled by him against the president – was puzzling even to some other conservatives. Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and Trump adviser, wondered on Fox News why none of his Republican colleagues on the panel had tried to defend Trump on any points of substance.
“That’s either a failure of the Republicans on the Hill or of the White House: they knew what was coming with Michael Cohen,” Christie said.
In the outcome, Cohen gave as good as he got. “Shame on you, Mr Jordan,” he said, after the ranking member had told the hearing that Cohen displayed “non-existent” remorse.
“I am remorseful,” Cohen went on. “I am going to prison. I will be away from my wife and children for years.”
“I understand that,” Jordan said in a rare moment of connection.