Jordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain

Jordan weathering political storm, but headwinds remain

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanConservative blocks House passage of disaster relief bill Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties GOP lawmakers lay out border security proposals for DHS MORE (R-Ohio) is managing to weather a storm that threatens his political career.

For more than a week, the influential conservative lawmaker has withstood allegations that he failed to protect former wrestlers from sexual abuse by a team doctor when he worked as a coach at Ohio State University (OSU) decades ago.

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Those accusations have been largely dismissed by fellow Republicans coming to Jordan’s defense, from President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE and congressional leaders to key conservative allies and even some of Jordan’s usual GOP detractors.

“I hope the truth comes out,” Rep. Richard HudsonRichard Lane HudsonThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Two killed in shooting at University of North Carolina Charlotte Don’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall MORE (R-N.C.), a leadership ally, told The Hill on Thursday. “The Jim Jordan I see described is not the Jim Jordan I know. That doesn’t sound like Jim to me.”

No one on Capitol Hill has called on Jordan, who is contemplating a bid for Speaker, to resign or even step down from his House Freedom Caucus leadership post.

And GOP leaders have said they don't think an investigation is needed by the House Ethics Committee now that OSU has launched an independent probe into allegations that team doctor Richard Strauss abused wrestlers and other athletes in the 1980s and '90s, when Jordan was an assistant coach.

"There's already an investigation,” House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseSenate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump Amash storm hits Capitol Hill Trump hits Amash after congressman doubles down on impeachment talk MORE (R-La.) told The Hill. “It's not a congressional issue." 

Republican colleagues pointed to several reasons why they think Jordan has remained relatively unscathed from this scandal.

They noted the timing elements: The alleged sexual abuse occurred decades ago, and Strauss died in 2005. And unlike other GOP congressional scandals that resulted in speedy resignations, Jordan is not the one being accused of sexual misconduct.

In December, former Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.), who was a member of the Freedom Caucus, resigned after it was revealed he had offered a female staffer $5 million to act as a surrogate mother due to his wife’s infertility issues. A couple of months before that, anti-abortion Rep. Tim MurphyTim MurphyA federal abortion law might be needed Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Pennsylvania New Members 2019 MORE (R-Pa.) quit following news reports that he had asked his mistress to get an abortion.

Both Franks and Murphy faced pressure from GOP leaders to resign.

Another aspect that Jordan's allies have pointed out is how two of his OSU accusers have a checkered past. Former wrestler Mike DiSabato was arrested earlier this year after sports agent Bret Adams accused him of telephone harassment, and former Ohio State football player Matt Finkes filed a similar complaint against DiSabato.

Jordan, a former collegiate wrestling champion and partisan attack dog, has come out swinging against the allegations, and he has more than 20 former wrestlers and coaches denying the accusations against him.

“Things have come down to he said, she said, and I know Jim to be a man of impeccable integrity and character,” one female House GOP colleague said. “If someone were to come forward with some tangible evidence, that would be problematic, but thus far I’m not aware [that has happened]."

Some GOP lawmakers suggested there could a double standard at play when it comes to scandals where the alleged victims are men.

But others say there could very well be pressure to support Jordan because the House Freedom Caucus is a powerful group that has been successful at influencing the party’s agenda. The band of roughly 30 hard-liners will be a crucial voting bloc for any aspiring Speaker, who will likely need their votes to secure the gavel.

“This is about the manipulative nature of the Freedom Caucus,” said one GOP lawmaker who’s been following the Jordan saga closely.

The Freedom Caucus, of which Jordan was previously chairman, issued a statement saying its members back him “100 percent.” 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 MORE (Wis.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyRepublicans spend more than million at Trump properties The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi fires back in feud with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes MORE (Calif.) and Scalise have all rallied to Jordan’s defense, with additional support coming from dozens of GOP colleagues such as Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan NCAA to consider allowing student athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness Members spar over sexual harassment training deadline MORE (N.C.), Republican Main Street Caucus Chairman Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisThe Go-Go's rock the stage at annual 'We Write the Songs' DC concert House Administration Committee to make election security a 'primary focus' GOP voices skepticism about viability of T infrastructure deal MORE (Ill.) and Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedHere are the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats on the Equality Act House approves anti-LGBT discrimination Equality Act Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill MORE (N.Y.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.

But Jordan still faces political headwinds.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi uses Trump to her advantage Fake Pelosi video sparks fears for campaigns Trump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk MORE (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Jordan betrayed his “duty” to protect his student athletes and suggested that Congress may need to step in at some point.

The Democratic leader noted that Jordan has repeatedly held those in power to high standards of accountability for misconduct under their watch. The same standard, she said, should now be applied to Jordan for any abuse that may have targeted OSU’s wrestlers during his time with the team.

“Many people say that he did know,” Pelosi said. “And by his own standard he should have known.”

Other Democrats are also criticizing Jordan. The Maryland Democratic Party called on him to withdraw from a GOP state fundraiser next week, when he is slated to deliver the keynote address.

“[Gov.] Larry Hogan and Maryland Republicans need to immediately disinvite Jim Jordan from this fundraiser to make clear that there is zero tolerance for anyone who turns a blind eye to the abuse of children,” Maryland Democratic Party spokesman Fabion Seaton said in a statement.

While Jordan has brushed aside those kinds of remarks, he isn’t out of the woods yet.

By vehemently denying the accusations, Jordan has given himself little wiggle room. His firm denials could come back to haunt him if the OSU investigation finds evidence that Jordan was aware of the abuse and failed to act, a conclusion that would surely ramp up pressure on him to resign.

That’s why some rank-and-file Republicans have privately questioned the wisdom of Ryan and other leaders vigorously defending Jordan during an ongoing investigation.

“Why are they opining on this when they possibly could not know?” said the GOP lawmaker who’s been closely following the Jordan controversy.

On Thursday, Jordan went back on the attack, but this time the target was an FBI agent accused of political bias in the Trump-Russia probe. Jordan spent Tuesday and Wednesday hunkered down in his office preparing for the highly anticipated joint committee hearing.

“He’s been not willing to back down on other things,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Conservative blocks House passage of disaster relief bill MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill. “He’s still engaging 110 percent on not only the DOJ and FBI things but a number of other legislative agendas.”

“He’s not allowed this to distract him,” Meadows added.

Mike Lillis and Juliegrace Brufke contributed