Jim Jordan Tried to Help Trump Mount a Coup. Now He Gets to Be Speaker?

There are lots of problems with the far-right congressman. But January 6 stands out.

Jim Jordan's face in a close-up

Jim Jordan, between lies, at a September 20, 2023 Judiciary Committee hearing.Tom Williams/Zuma

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Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), like Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the man he hopes to replace as House speaker, lies a lot. Jordan’s rapid-style monologues—on topics such as Russia’s attack on the  2016 election, Donald Trump’s 2019 effort to extort Ukraine, Hunter Biden, and internet censorship—are often loaded with allegations that are demonstrably false. He has made pushing pro-Trump disinformation a priority for the GOP caucus. As the House Judiciary Committee chairman, he presides over a subcommittee on the supposed “weaponization” of the federal government that is mostly devoted to furthering Trump’s claim that the former president is a victim of the Deep State and facing four indictments only because of a vast conspiracy. Jordan uses that post to promote the belief system of the Fox News bubble. And though he may stand out from his colleagues on brazenness, on most topics, his fibs align with his fellow House Republicans.

But Jordan, a leading contender for the speakership, does differ from his GOP colleagues in an important way: his unique role in helping Trump try to steal the 2020 election and launch the January 6 riot. 

Many Republicans endorsed Trump’s Big Lie about the election. But Jordan was one of only a handful of congressional Republicans who actively conspired with Trump to overturn the election results. As he runs for House speaker, Republicans appear eager to ignore that. Yet by embracing Jordan they tie themselves further to that attack on democracy and the Constitution.

Jordan was an early and enthusiastic recruit in Trump’s war on the republic and reality—in public and in private. 

Days after the November election, he spoke at a “Stop the Steal” rally in front of the Pennsylvania state capitol. He spread election conspiracy theories within right-wing media. He endorsed Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell’s bogus claims that Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic had robbed Trump of electoral victory. He called for a congressional investigation of electoral fraud for which there was no evidence and demanded a special counsel be appointed. He endorsed state legislatures canceling vote tallies and selecting their own presidential electors. He urged Trump not to concede. He demanded Congress not certify Joe Biden’s victory in the ceremony scheduled for January 6, 2021. 

Behind the scenes, he schemed with Trump. The final report of the House select committee on January 6 lays out in damning detail Jordan’s participation in Trump’s eletion-thwarting machinations. “Representative Jordan was a significant player in President Trump’s efforts,” the committee said. “He participated in numerous post-election meetings in which senior White House officials, Rudolph Giuliani, and others, discussed strategies for challenging the election, chief among them claims that the election had been tainted by fraud.”

As early as November, Jordan was “involved in discussions with White House officials about Vice President Pence’s role on January 6th,” the report noted—conversations that focused on whether Pence could block the certification of Biden’s win. Jordan was one of 10 Republican members of Congress who attended a White House meeting on December 21 where the topic was how to pressure Pence to undo the election.

What understanding, if any, did Trump have with Jordan? The January 6 committee did not find out. And Jordan has never fully explained his role in Trump’s scheming, let alone apologized. He refused to cooperate with the House January 6 committee’s investigation. And now he is close to becoming House speaker—second-in-line to the presidency—without accounting for his participation in Trump’s attempt to overturn an election.

But the committee did uncover evidence that Jordan was hatching some plan with Trump to mount a coup.

On December 27, 2020,  the defeated president held a phone call with Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue. Trump insisted that there had been widespread fraud in the election and raised numerous allegations that had been debunked. Rosen and Donoghue repeatedly told Trump there was no evidence of significant wrongdoing. Trump pushed the pair to publicly state that this had been an “illegal” election. He cited three Republican politicians who were supporting his claim of a stolen election: Representative Scott Perry (R-Penn.), Doug Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator, and Jordan, whom he praised as a “fighter.”

When Rosen said to Trump that the Justice Department couldn’t “snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election,” Trump responded, “I don’t expect you to do that. Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.” Trump did not explain what he meant or what the GOP House members—presumably including Jordan—intended to do if the Justice Department falsely declared the election fraudulent. Rosen and Donoghue refused to issue such a statement. 

On January 2, 2021, Jordan led a conference call in which he, Trump, and other members of Congress discussed strategies for delaying the January 6 joint session of Congress, where the election results would be certified. “During that call,” according to the January 6 committee, “the group also discussed issuing social media posts encouraging President Trump’s supporters to ‘march to the Capitol’ on the 6th. An hour and a half later, President Trump and Representative Jordan spoke by phone for 18 minutes.” It is not publicly known what the two discussed. 

Three days later, Jordan texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to pass along advice that Pence should “call out all the electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.”

On January 6—a day of violent chaos and insurrection—Jordan spoke with Trump by phone at least twice. As the committee noted, Jordan “has provided inconsistent public statements about how many times they spoke and what they discussed.” That day Jordan also received five calls from Rudolph Giuliani, and the two connected at least twice in the evening, as Giuliani was attempting to encourage members of Congress to continue objecting to Biden’s electoral votes. In the days after January 6, Jordan spoke with Trump White House staff about the prospect of presidential pardons for members of Congress.

It is obvious that Jordan knows a lot about Trump’s attempt to sabotage the constitutional order and the run-up to the January 6 riot. But he has refused to share any of this with the public. On May 12, 2022, the January 6 committee subpoenaed several Republican members of Congress—including Jordan, McCarthy, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Penn.), and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)—to obtain information related to its investigation. Jordan and the others refused to cooperate.

The committee referred Jordan, McCarthy, Perry, and Biggs to the House Ethics Committee for sanction for failing to comply with subpoenas. The committee noted that Jordan and the others “should be questioned in a public forum about their advance knowledge of and role in President Trump’s plan to prevent the peaceful transition of power.” It also stated that the Justice Department ought to seek testimony from Jordan regarding his “materially relevant communications with Donald Trump or others in the White House.”

Jordan was a key advocate of Trump’s election falsehood and co-conspirator in Trump’s bid to steal power. (Trump faces 17 felony counts for this effort.) He was one of the GOP’s chief crusaders pushing falsehoods that threatened the constitutional order. If his fellow Republicans elevate Jordan to speaker, they will be fully embracing Trump’s attack on the republic, and a profound threat to democracy will now be coming from inside the House.  

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