The real reason Jim Jordan is ranting against Jan. 6 committee staff

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) just had a very telling little meltdown on Fox News’s “The Ingraham Angle,” ranting against the makeup of the House Jan. 6 select committee staff. His big concern? The committee has brought in too many former prosecutors. This is not a criminal investigation, he says.

Jordan’s criticism is both irrelevant and ignorant; perhaps, more generously, he’s playing provocateur.

The committee has staffed up with 14 or so ex-prosecutors because: a) the task is vast; b) they have the resources to hire well-trained lawyers who have handled complex federal cases; and c) typical congressional staffers just can’t handle such a colossal undertaking. In other words, Jordan and other Trump World lackeys are facing their worst possible nightmare in the mother of all congressional investigations.

Jordan’s rant comes after his infamous, tongue-tied “hummina, hummina” moment when an Ohio reporter asked him on camera if he had spoken to the president on Jan. 6 “before, during or after the attack on the Capitol.” Jordan’s squirming response suggested that he was afraid the reporter was going to pin him down where Jordan didn’t want to be pinned.

It also comes after a Just Security report from August detailed just how central a role Jordan played in aiding and abetting Trump’s misinformation campaign before and after the election, his lead role in spreading Trump’s “Big Lie,” and his furtive efforts to stop the certification of Joe Biden as president.

If Jordan was worried that a local reporter might pin him down on such a simple question, wait until he gets 14 former prosecutors on his case. Not only are they hired because of their experience in sprawling, complex federal cases such as going after the mob or terrorists, they are trained in the Socratic method and the Hegelian dialectic, which — if used skillfully — could not only pin someone down but nail them to the cross. That’s a nightmare for even a silver-tongued ne’er-do-well trying to squirm back into the woodwork.

A normal congressional committee, House or Senate, is not capable of this kind of investigation. They have neither the resources nor the know-how. Normally, a committee is lucky to have three or four investigators, except for the two oversight committees in the House and Senate. A committee can augment its investigative staff by borrowing — on detail, usually for one to two years — experienced investigators from various federal agencies. Typically, committees have one or two such detailees.

Looking back at recent big congressional investigations, they were mostly conducted by special or select committees, whose mission and resources were created by resolution on the House or Senate floor, just like the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. Examples include the Iran/Contra committees in the 1980s, the Senate Whitewater Committee in the 1990s, and the Senate POW/MIA select committee in the 1990s, for which I worked. These were created by special resolutions so that the resources and authorities could match the scope of the task at hand.

In addition to hiring investigators, these select committees always brought in outside legal talent, usually on loan from major law firms. Michael Chertoff was brought in by Chairman Alphonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) for the Whitewater investigation; Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) of the Senate POW/MIA committee brought in Boston lawyer Bill Codinha, and so on. They brought in other attorneys as well. 

But not 14 of them.

That helps explain why defense attorney and well-respected former House general counsel Stanley Brand told The New York Times about the Jan. 6 select committee: “Having lived through and being a part of every major congressional investigation over the past 50 years from Iran-contra to Whitewater to everything else, this is the mother of all investigations and a quantum leap for Congress in a way I’ve never seen before.”

Even though I was a Senate investigator, I often consulted with Brand because he was a more effective legal adviser than his Senate legal counterpart. This man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to congressional investigations.

Perhaps that’s why there’s a spot of nervousness in Trump World’s House annex.

However, 14 former prosecutors on the Jan. 6 committee won’t ensure a successful outcome. That would come only by effectively marshaling the evidence and orchestrating it in a persuasive way in public hearings.

It is surprising how often outside lawyers can turn a public hearing into a snooze-fest for anyone watching: They focus too much on minutia instead of crafting a compelling storyline — much like a movie, complete with victims, good guys and bad guys, with a moral to the story.

It remains to be seen if this committee will successfully orchestrate its hearings.

We’ll know by spring.

Its first crack at orchestration came last summer when the witnesses were four Capitol Police officers who heroically defended the Capitol on Jan. 6. Now we need to see if the committee can identify the good guys and bad guys, reveal the plot and demonstrate the moral.

Adding to the pressure are the Senate Republicans, who have pushed back against the recent Republican National Committee attack on GOP Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), vocal critics of former President Trump, for their participation on the committee. That resistance and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) apparent defense of the committee’s core mission constitute additional bipartisan credibility for the committee.

In recent weeks, details have emerged about what happened leading up to and on Jan. 6. Many are surprised at how clear the picture is becoming. I’m sure that hasn’t been lost on Jordan and other likely culprits in Trump World.

In the weeks ahead, as that picture becomes ever clearer, I expect the decibel level of the squealing to go higher.

Kris Kolesnik is a 34-year veteran of federal government oversight. He spent 19 years as senior counselor and director of investigations for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Kolesnik then became executive director of the National Whistleblower Center. Finally, he spent 10 years working with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General as the associate inspector general for external affairs.

Tags Adam Kinzinger Capitol riot Chuck Grassley committee staff Congressional investigations congressional subpoenas Donald Trump former prosecutors Government House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack Jan. 6 Insurrection Jan. 6 investigation Jim Jordan Joe Biden Liz Cheney Mitch McConnell Politics of the United States trumpism United States Capitol attack

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