ANALYSIS — President Donald Trump has an affinity for tough guys.
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And conservative firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan, the founding chairman of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus.
“Here’s a guy I love because he’s a champion. The NCAA champion in wrestling, his record is crazy, like 128-1 — some crazy record. And you know why? Not because of just the muscle. It’s because of this right here, because of this,” Trump said, pointing to his head, at a raucous Nov. 5 campaign rally in Cleveland. “This muscle, that’s your most important right here.”
Then the president, who often notes he watches “the shows” on cable news networks, explained why he is so fond of Jordan, who will be the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee come January.
“He’s a champ. I love him defending me on television. He is a bulldog,” a beaming Trump said. “He doesn’t give a damn. Boom. Boom. Boom. Point after point. Right? He’s a champ.”
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Trump is known to call GOP members at all hours after watching hearings on his White House DVR or live interviews on cable evening news programs. Jordan’s phone is likely to ring frequently as he goes, in the president’s words, “point after point” at incoming Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland.
Jordan, who lost a bid to lead the House GOP conference last month, had spoken of making a bid to be the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. But he bowed out last week, saying it was “clear” to him that he was “not going to get that job”. That panel, to be chaired by New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, is expected to take the lead on a list of investigations of the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization and the Trump White House.
“Judiciary is where the real action will be. Oversight is the consolation prize,” Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said.
But the Ohio grappler will still have plenty of chances to defend Trump and do his best to ding Democrats and their investigations launched by the Oversight and Judiciary committees.
That’s because “Oversight is a less demanding job,” Bannon said. “Jordan will still have plenty of face time on [Fox News].”
“The only thing about the Judiciary Committee hearings that the president will know anything about anyway is what he sees on Fox News. So, for all intents and purposes, Jordan’s [Judiciary race] loss is a win-win for everybody,” Bannon said.
“Jordan has more time to appear on Fox News. [Incoming House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy gets what he wants, which is Jordan away from the Judiciary Committee. Trump is able to watch Jordan a lot defending him on his favorite TV shows,” he added. “Is America a great country or what?”
Reaching the base
Jordan is a frequent guest on Fox News, the president’s favorite cable news network — and that includes Sean Hannity’s prime-time program, which Trump sometimes quotes in his tweets.
“That’s what is coming, they are going to be investigating all kinds of other things,” Jordan warned Hannity soon after the midterm elections.
During the same Nov. 8 appearance, he also told the network’s conservative viewers — many of whom make up Trump’s political base — that he believes the president’s hand-picked acting attorney general can oversee special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia election meddling probe despite his past criticism of it.
“This idea that the left is saying Mr. [Matthew] Whitaker should recuse himself is ridiculous,” Jordan said.
The same night, Jordan offered a full-throated defense of Trump on Fox Business — and some signature criticism of House Republican leaders.
“Here’s what’s going on: When the American people sent President Trump here, they sent him here to shake this town up. And I think he’s doing that,” Jordan said. “I don’t know that they’ve seen the same urgency, the same intensity from the House of Representatives. We haven’t replaced Obamacare. We haven’t reformed our welfare system and we certainly haven’t secured the border.”
All of that is music to Trump’s ears.