A Republican takeover of the House next year would instantly shift the lower chamber from a force allied with President Joe Biden to perhaps his fiercest collective adversary — one with real power to disrupt the second half of the president’s first term.
But nowhere is that shift expected to be more pronounced than the Judiciary Committee, where Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — a conservative firebrand and staunch supporter of former President Trump — is poised to take the gavel.
Jordan, a founder and former head of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, has already made clear his intent to use the panel to launch what would certainly be some of the most high-profile — and politically significant — investigations next year into the operations of both the White House and the broader administration.
On the short list are probes to scrutinize Biden’s involvement in his son Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings; the Homeland Security Department’s handling of the southern border; the Justice Department’s oversight of local school boards; and the FBI’s seizure of documents Trump took with him to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House.
“If that doesn’t warrant a real investigation and real change coming, I don’t know what does,” Jordan told the Fox Business Network last week, previewing an array of topics he’s vowing to examine if the House flips, as many election watchers expect.
Perhaps most significantly, Jordan’s gavel would also lend him jurisdiction over potential impeachments — an idea that’s already gaining steam in the conservative corners of the GOP conference, where the calls to oust Biden and members of his Cabinet have grown only louder throughout this year.
Those dynamics may put Jordan in the driver’s seat of what could potentially be Congress’s most consequential undertaking ahead of the 2024 presidential election, when Trump may be on the ballot to avenge the 2020 defeat he still hasn’t acknowledged.
Yet a strong conservative push for impeachment could also put Jordan in a squeeze, caught between Biden’s loudest critics, including Trump, and more wary Republican leaders — a group he’s tangled with in the past — who are already signaling concerns about the political risks of trying to oust the president.
In that scenario, Jordan, the agitator-turned-chairman, would be forced to choose between the aggressive entreaties of a right wing he helped to groom and the cautious posture of leaders he once opposed — a delicate position for a figure more accustomed to throwing bombs than deflecting them.
Trump, from the sidelines, would almost certainly join the pro-impeachment crowd, putting only more pressure on Jordan to pursue it.
Whatever might happen with impeachment, outside observers are already predicting that a Jordan-led Judiciary panel will be a force to watch if Republicans are empowered with a House majority.
“There is a lot in Jim Jordan’s record that makes the potential prospect of him having such a powerful post, having control over the House Judiciary Committee, troubling,” Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told The Hill.
“Nothing in Jim’s Jordan career so far has screamed out ‘balance,’” Bookbinder said, a trait he thinks is important in a committee with oversight of justice and law enforcement issues and which serves a role demanding transparency and upholding democratic norms.
“The Judiciary committees are always an important place for those issues. They’re a place where there can be real positive action, but also a place where there can be deeply politicized hearings that can make things worse,” he added.
Jordan and his allies have rejected such criticisms, saying he’s simply aiming to bring some accountability to the administration after two years of neglect under the current chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.).
“Ultimately holding people accountable, that’s for the Justice Department to take up,” Jordan told Fox Business. “But our job is to get the truth and the facts out there.
“We’re going to do that.”
Jordan and the Judiciary Committee will not be alone, of course, in battling with Biden if the House changes hands next year.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who’s in line to lead the powerful Oversight and Reform Committee, is also promising deep dives into the president and his administration, vowing a focus on Hunter Biden, the border and the COVID-19 response. And Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), as expected chairman of the Armed Services Committee, would likely use that perch to examine last year’s deadly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
But Jordan is perhaps the most prominent national figure poised to take on the mantle of Biden antagonist if the House flips.
In public comments, Jordan has already forecast where his priorities would be if he takes the gavel. And a source close to him elucidated that focus this week, saying immigration issues — including the border, crime, taking on Big Tech and oversight of the Justice Department and the FBI — would be among his top concerns, an emphasis already reflected by Jordan’s work this Congress as the Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican.
During his time as ranking member, Jordan has also focused squarely on various domestic terrorism angles, a topic where he sees the Biden administration focusing too many resources on those with conservative viewpoints — and parents of public school children.
Jordan has sent a bevy of letters on a memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland signed in October of last year, noting a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff” amid broader discussions over COVID-19 policies and how issues such as race and gender are addressed at school.
The memo largely encouraged coordination, asking the FBI to convene meetings with local law enforcement in the following 30 days to discuss how to respond to threats of violence. It ultimately resulted in little payoff, particularly given the swift GOP backlash.
The outcry from Republican lawmakers led the National School Boards Association, which wrote to Biden requesting assistance on the rising threats, to issue a statement saying its members “regret and apologize” for its outreach letter.
But it’s remained a consistent talking point for Jordan, who by his own count has sent more than 100 letters on the subject.
The latest asked the Justice Department to preserve all its documents related to the Garland memo, saying the “anti-parent directive remains in effect, and as a result, the threat of federal law enforcement continues to chill the First Amendment rights of American parents.”
And Jordan scored a win last week when Jill Sanborn, a former FBI official tasked with overseeing the counter-terrorism division of the bureau, agreed to voluntarily sit with the panel’s investigators.
The FBI as well as the Department of Homeland Security have warned of the risks from domestic violent extremism (DVE), a category that includes those motivated by a wide variety of subjects. Leaders of each have cautioned that those motivated by race and ethnicity, particularly white supremacy, are among the most dangerous.
Jordan, citing a whistleblower to the committee, contends some FBI cases have been inappropriately labeled as DVE “in order to appease the Biden Administration’s woke left-wing agenda.”
He also sent a new duo of letters Friday, this time to Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, saying lawmakers “are investigating the Biden Administration’s callous disregard for the safety and security of our southern border.”
The letters ask for preservation of documents — a common tactic from the minority when they lack subpoena power and a reflection of their future priorities.
“Committee Republicans will continue to pursue these matters, including into the 118th Congress if necessary,” Jordan wrote.