Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio has heard the criticisms — including on Fox News — that his subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government has yet to uncover much. He doesn’t see it that way.
“I feel like our staff is working their tail off and we’re getting things up and rolling,” Jordan told Semafor in an exclusive interview.
This week the committee will conduct its second hearing on “The Twitter Files,” featuring testimony from journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger, who reported on materials provided to them by new owner Elon Musk related to the site’s moderation decisions.
Jordan says the committee is locked in on investigations into the government’s handling of purported threats from traditional Catholics, anti-abortion activists, and critics of school policies, which prompted a fresh round of subpoenas on Monday. He denied they were only speaking to a right-wing bubble, pointing to his inclusion of former Democrat Tulsi Gabbard — now a fill-in host for Tucker Carlson — as a witness in their first hearing, where she discussed her experience on social media.
“Our job is...to get the facts on the table, propose legislation that will help fix the problem, and use the appropriation process, if we need to, to limit some of the egregious behavior we’ve seen,” Jordan said.
But the committee’s first hearing, which featured a wide array of individual grievances from the committee’s Republican members, generated relatively few splashy headlines. In a segment on Fox News last week, host Jesse Watters lumped it in with a series of Republican hearings that he complained had disappointed conservatives. ”Where are the bombshells?” Watters asked. “Have the investigations even started?”
“I think we’ve done more letters for transcribed interviews than any other committee in Congress,” Jordan said. “I’m focused on our job. I know we’re gonna get criticized from folks, that’s part of the deal. I learned a long time ago, if you’re not getting criticized, you’re probably not doing anything worthwhile.”
Jordan said he has heard from “dozens” of potential whistleblowers who want to speak to the committee, and has already conducted interviews with three former FBI employees about possible politicization at the bureau.
But Democratic staffers have also proved nimble in their response — this week, they released a 316-page report preemptively casting doubt on their testimony that included links to incendiary social media posts and information about payments towards two of the witnesses from a pro-Trump group led by former administration official Kash Patel.
Jordan defended the trio’s credibility, saying they had been unfairly “attacked” by Democrats for coming forward and that the payments from Patel’s groups were appropriate.
“You lose your job for coming forward and telling the truth as a brave whistleblower, you’re going to get help from where you get help,” Jordan said. “These guys got families to take care of, for goodness sake.”
The committee is under heavy pressure to deliver given the intense conservative interest in their work. During the speaker’s fight, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Kevin McCarthy’s commitment to creating the committee, staffing it properly, and installing trusted members were essential to winning over his critics in the caucus.
Members and staffers on the other side of the aisle have compared it unfavorably to the January 6th committee, which featured primetime hearings chock full of dramatic new information presented in a carefully choreographed Hollywood-style package. Jordan rejected the comparisons, saying his committee had a different “focus” and would use its similar $19 million maximum budget differently.
Some members of the weaponization committee have suggested they’re still getting their sea legs. Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C. told Semafor last week they were working on hiring enough people to match their ambitions.
“One of our challenges as we continue to move through the first couple or several months is to get a sufficient enough staff to have a wide enough investigation,” Bishop said.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., another member, told Semafor late last month that he had passed along a resume to Jordan’s office. “You could either complain about it or help here,” Massie said.
Some critics have questioned whether the committee will be able to attract quality staff, in part due to its makeup, which includes some more polarizing hard right figures in the party, and its lack of a clear focus.
“Anyone that’s on the outside, they’re not going to leave their career and their job to go work for this kangaroo court,” Kurt Bardella, a former aide to Republican Rep. Darrell Issa who is now a Democrat, said. “It would be damaging, I think, to their own reputations to do that.”
But Jordan said the staff had “more than doubled” to 50 people since the new committee was created — up from 21 — and included battle-hardened veterans from Donald Trump’s first impeachment and Obama-era investigations.
“Not that there’s some magic number you got to hit,” he added.
The View From Democrats
In contrast to the friendly bipartisanship on the select committee on China, relationships between the two parties on the weaponization committee couldn’t be much worse.
“I think it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars and should have never been formed,” Colin Allred, D-Texas, said of the weaponization committee.
Ranking member Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I. said in a letter that Jordan was not “an honest broker,” Punchbowl News reported this week, citing Democratic complaints that they’ve been left in the dark on updates. Republicans, for their part, have accused Democrats of going behind their back to leak material to the press with favorable spin.
But the January 6th committee was criticized by some for keeping out Republicans it deemed too close to Trump and the rioters — including Jordan himself — and still managed to capture national attention. Ultimately, the weaponization committee will be judged by what it produces, not how well its members get along.