For all the hype surrounding the move by House Republicans to place Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio on the Intelligence Committee so he can be part of the public impeachment hearings, the conservative firebrand is not likely to have much of a role to play based on the rules governing the hearings.
Jordan, a former national champion collegiate wrestler known for his unflagging support for President Trump, was moved by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The tactic was heralded as an aggressive maneuver by the GOP, increasing the odds of intense confrontations between Jordan and witnesses called by the Democrats.
But Jordan will not even be eligible to ask questions of witnesses for most of the hearings.
House Resolution 660, which was passed Oct. 31 by a partisan vote in the House, 232-196, authorized Democrats and Republicans to interview witnesses in 45-minute blocks of time each, evenly divided between the two sides. That’s instead of the normal protocol for witness hearings, when each member of the committee has five minutes to ask questions.
Democrats believe this approach will allow House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to keep the hearing focused on a sustained line of questioning during his 45-minute block, rather than the far less coherent approach that rises out of the five-minute rounds.
But the text of Resolution 660 also states that only the chairman, the ranking member or a member of the committee staff can ask questions during these 90-minute rounds, which can go on as long as Schiff wants them to.
"Only the chair and ranking minority member, or a permanent select committee employee if yielded to by the chair or ranking minority member, may question witnesses during such periods of questioning,” the resolution states.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is the current ranking member on the intelligence panel, and was the chairman of the committee from 2015 to 2019.
During closed-door depositions with witnesses that preceded the public hearings, Schiff and Nunes also questioned witnesses in evenly split blocks of time but were able to defer to other members of the Intelligence Committee at their discretion. The Oct. 31 House-approved resolution changed that for the public hearings so that Nunes can’t defer time to Jordan or anyone else other than staff, such as Steve Castor, who does happen to be Jordan’s general counsel.
But Jordan, then, will have to wait until Schiff and Nunes are finished to question any witnesses. He will be given five minutes to ask questions, but could be given time by other members of the Intelligence Committee if they defer to him. Jordan did not respond to a question sent to him by text message to his cellphone.
Trump allies heralded Jordan’s move to the intelligence panel this week.
“Jordan will be a highly effective fighter for truth, justice and fairness,” wrote David Bossie, a top official on the 2016 Trump campaign who remains a fierce defender of the president.
But one Democrat involved in the impeachment process added that the committee would welcome Jordan’s presence, noting that his performance in past high-profile hearings has been the subject of derision more than anything else.
“Saturday Night Live” mocked Jordan’s penchant for never wearing a suit jacket and portrayed Democratic committee members repeatedly ceding their own time to Jordan so he could have more time.
Of course, much of Trump’s political strategy is not to win over “SNL” viewers, but rather the working class and nontraditional voters in the Rust Belt.
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