Say what you will about Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio); if there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s message control. He speaks quickly and forcefully in hearings, grilling GOP critics and seeding his side’s talking points. He’s a partisan political warrior, almost beyond compare.
Ohio-based reporter Taylor Popielarz pressed Jordan on those questions after a Fox News interview in which Jordan appeared to acknowledge speaking with Trump on the day of the pro-Trump mob’s attack on the Capitol. Jordan acknowledged he did in fact speak with Trump that day but tried to talk around it as if there was nothing remarkable, memorable or important about it.
“I’m actually kind of amazed sometimes that people keep asking this question,” Jordan said. “Of course. I talk to the president all the time.”
Asked about the timing of the call that day — whether it was before, during or after the Capitol insurrection — Jordan began somewhat uncomfortably formulating an answer. “I spoke with him that day — after? I think after,” Jordan said. “I don’t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don’t know. … I don’t know when those conversations happened.”
A couple of things:
First, the idea that Jordan can’t remember when he spoke with Trump on Jan. 6 is difficult to stomach. It was a pretty memorable day! If you speak to the president during or after Congress is being overrun by a mob, you’d think the conversation would pertain to that and you’d recall such a thing.
Second, the idea that this is a nothingburger also feels like protesting a little too much. It might be true that Jordan speaks frequently with Trump, but this would have been in the context of an attack on the seat of government. Ninety-nine percent of Jordan’s calls with Trump might indeed be unremarkable, but the presence of those unremarkable calls has little bearing upon whether this one matters.
More than anything, though, the disclosure of the Jordan call adds to a growing number of potential Republican lawmaker witnesses who could be called by the House’s Jan. 6 committee — something both of the panel’s Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), have suggested they could support.
The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany this weekend detailed the unprecedented dilemma involved in potentially calling fellow lawmakers to testify. But it’s also worth running through what each of those witnesses might contribute, if indeed called.
What we know: He spoke with Trump on Jan. 6, though he isn’t sure precisely when.
What we could find out: This is more of a black box than most. But Jordan was also a key proponent of questioning the election results in swing states. The New York Times reported this weekend that Trump mentioned him during a call with top Justice Department officials in which Trump pressured them to say the election had been corrupted. The context of invoking Jordan isn’t at all clear, but he was clearly someone Trump had in mind when it came to such things. Speaking with Trump frequently would suggest some of their conversations pertained to the matters at hand.
What we know: The House minority leader also spoke with Trump on Jan. 6. In fact, he told Fox News in May that he was the first lawmaker Trump spoke to during the insurrection. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) also disclosed during Trump’s impeachment that Trump told McCarthy during the insurrection, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” McCarthy later declined to detail the call, except to say Trump ended the call by “telling me, he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did; he put a video out later.”
What we could find out: The key thing here is how much Trump appreciated — in both senses of the word — what was transpiring early that day. We know McCarthy initially blamed Trump for a tardy response to the riot, because McCarthy said so himself. He even promoted the idea of a historic censure of Trump for it. McCarthy later insisted that Trump made good on a promise to “put something out,” but that wasn’t at all McCarthy’s big takeaway initially, and the known timeline places Trump’s efforts well after his call with McCarthy.
Both McCarthy’s initial response and the quote Beutler attributes to Trump point to a minority leader who genuinely tried to get Trump to respond to the gravity of the situation, but didn’t really succeed — either because Trump liked what he saw or for some other reason. If McCarthy is indeed the first lawmaker Trump spoke to, his perspective on Trump’s frame of mind would seem invaluable, given it might be the most unvarnished version of whether Trump approved of the scenes — or possibly even deliberately incited them.
Tommy Tuberville (and maybe Mike Lee)
What we know: The freshman Alabama senator, who like Jordan was a leader of the effort to challenge the electors, spoke with Trump after the president mistakenly called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) at 2:26 p.m. Lee said Trump and Tuberville spoke for “five or 10 minutes.” Tuberville said he ended the call by saying, “Mr. President, they’ve taken the vice president [Mike Pence] out. They want me to get off the phone, I gotta go.”
What we could find out: The big initial question here was whether Trump was aware of the personal threat Pence faced when he tweeted, at 2:24 p.m., attacking his vice president for not unilaterally rejecting electors. The rioters had chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” and Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber about 10 minutes earlier.
We later found out the call to Lee/Tuberville actually came shortly after Trump’s tweet. But McCarthy’s timeline suggests Trump’s tweet would still have come after he asked Trump to do something. In other words, it seems clear, by McCarthy’s own timeline, that Trump attacked Pence even after McCarthy urged Trump to do something to stop the violence.
But the length of the phone call stands out. Five or 10 minutes in the midst of the insurrection suggests Trump and Tuberville had a relatively substantial conversation, during which Trump would have been aware of the situation based upon his conversation with McCarthy. Was Trump more concerned about the unrest or the challenge to the election? What did he confide in a leading lawmaker involved in the latter effort, even as things were spiraling out of control?
What we know: The Indiana congressman was with his brother that day. And he has said that Trump’s request of Pence was beyond the pale. “That was a very tough day for my brother,” Greg Pence said. “My brother was being asked to do what we don’t do in this country. … So he really had no authority to do what he [was asked to do].”
But the New York Times reported this weekend that, similar to Jordan and McCarthy, Greg Pence clammed up when asked about the situation:
Asked how he would describe the riot, in which a hostile crowd demanded the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence, his brother, Representative Greg Pence of Indiana, responded curtly, “I don’t describe it.”
What we could find out: Mike Pence has evolved somewhat in his commentary on this issue, initially feeding claims about lax election security but later saying in no uncertain terms that what Trump asked him to do was not okay. Like Tuberville, Greg Pence would seem to have some important perspective on the situation the vice president faced that day. The fact that he’s declining to say much, just like Jordan and McCarthy, doesn’t exactly diminish interest in what he might say under oath.
What we know: The congressman from Alabama joined Tuberville among the earliest proponents in their chambers of challenging the electors. But more than that, he was a leader among congressional Republicans of the “Stop the Steal” movement, and he spoke at the same rally preceding the Capitol riot at which Trump appeared — at the express request of the White House, he said.
What we could find out: Another black box here. We don’t know whether Brooks actually interacted with Trump that day. We don’t know about his conversations with Trump about the effort. What we do know is that he last week disclosed wearing body armor during his speech and avoiding his condominium, according to Slate, because there “might be risks associated with the next few days.”
The fact that the White House invited him to the rally, which Brooks’s team disclosed while denying a “Stop the Steal” organizer’s claims of contact with Brooks, would seem to suggest he has insights into its posture toward the events of that day.