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Drain the Swamp

Dogged House Freedom Caucus Co-Founder Aims to Drain the Swamp

Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan is a determined friend of individual liberty and a tireless foe of bureaucratic abuses

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has adamantly fought back against the Washington political swamp throughout his six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, but never more so than when the unelected, unaccountable federal bureaucracy is blatantly abusing its power.

President Donald Trump was elected promising to “drain the swamp,” which put him on the same team for many issues with Jordan, who was a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, the assembly of 31 conservative and libertarian representatives battling to return the government to the structure originally created by the founders with the Constitution.

Ask Jordan to name the worst examples of abusive bureaucracy, and without hesitation he points to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its illegal targeting of Tea Party, conservative, and evangelical nonprofit applicants for regulatory harassment during the 2010 and 2012 election campaigns.

“The IRS systemically and, for a sustained period of time, targeted people for their political beliefs,” Jordan told LifeZette. “An agency with the power that the IRS has to go after people because they didn’t like the fact that they were conservative, and they were Tea Party activists and conservative activists. That is as bad as it gets and they did it, they did it, in a systemic way.”

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The IRS actions prompted congressional investigations beginning in 2013 and led by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, on which Jordan is a subcommittee chairman. Former IRS Executive Lois Lerner was, with former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, the main figure in the scandal. She was found in contempt of Congress when she refused to answer any questions about her role in the illegal targeting.

Lerner subsequently retired from the government with a full pension and never received any disciplinary actions or punishments.

“It was Lois Lerner, it was coordinated, and it was as wrong as it could be,” Jordan said. “Then when they got caught, John Koskinen, the new commissioner brought in to clean it up, destroyed evidence, two hundred something backup tapes, containing potentially thousands and thousands of emails, and said false things under oath to the United States Congress. We also tried to impeach him and, unfortunately, we weren’t successful.”

Jordan believes the IRS scandal was the worst example of the swamp until the FBI’s bungled investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official U.S. diplomatic business from 2009 to 2013. Hundreds of highly classified materials were found among Clinton’s thousands of emails, and government investigators said it was likely the Clinton server was compromised by foreign powers and interests. Clinton was the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

Although Clinton had ignored repeated warnings about compromising national security, former FBI Director James Comey declined to recommend prosecution because, he claimed, her “extreme carelessness” did not satisfy the law’s requirement of “gross negligence” as the basis for criminal charges.

Jordan is deeply involved in the joint investigation of the FBI’s Clinton email probe by the House Judiciary Committee and the oversight panel, along with the parallel review of the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation of allegations that aides to Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian interests.

The congressman’s dogged pursuit of DOJ and FBI documents has often been frustrated by bureaucratic evasions, but, unlike the IRS scandal, there have been consequences for some of the major executive branch players in the Clinton email and Russia collusion scandals.

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired for lacking candor three times under oath. Comey was also fired. Former FBI chief of staff Jim Rybicki, former FBI chief counsel James Baker, FBI counsel Lisa Page all eventually left the agency. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok was reassigned and lost his clearance for a while but is still there.

Related: Draining the Swamp Starts with Stopping the Revolving Door

“These were the same key players who ran the Clinton investigation and then launched and ran the Trump/Russian investigation,” Jordan said. “I have never seen something like that happen where you’ve had so many people fired, demoted or resigned. I have never seen it. This is now, in my mind, the worst thing from the swamp in my time here in Washington.”

Strzok led the email investigation before jumping onto the special counsel probe last year, but was removed after thousands of his text messages with Page were revealed, with hundreds of them showing Strzok and Page expressing bitter contempt for Trump and appearing to be discussing how they could help prevent his being elected, or failing that, damaging him so much that he would either be impeached or resign.

Strzok testified during two closed-door hearings June 27, returning for his first public hearing July 12, which revealed that Bruce Ohr, the former associate deputy attorney general, provided to the FBI a Democratic opposition research dossier prepared by Christopher Steele, a former British spy with deep connections to Russian intelligence. The dossier was paid for indirectly by Clinton’s 2016 campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which she then controlled.

“That’s what they used to go to the secret court, the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court, to get a warrant to spy on Carter Page,” Jordan said. “This dossier, which was paid for by the Clinton campaign, they were getting it from a fellow Department of Justice guy, Bruce Ohr, whose wife was working for the very people the Clinton campaign was paying. You can’t make this stuff up.”

The House approved a resolution June 28 along party lines  demanding that the FBI and Justice Department comply with multiple subpoenas and requests for documents and testimony. Jordan and other House investigators remain angry that DOJ officials are habitually slow-walking production of the requested materials.

Jordan sees the bureaucratic state as particularly troublesome because such officials, being either appointees or career civil servants, aren’t held to the same accountability standards as elected lawmakers. But Congress has shifted so much of its authority to executive branch regulators that the bureaucracy has become in many respects the most powerful part of the government.

Related: Rep. Steve King Wants Names, Notes of FBI’s Clinton Interviewers

“Think about the power that these folks have, and none of them have ever put their name on a ballot and had to face the American voter, face the American people, and get elected to office,” Jordan said. “Lois Lerner was never elected to anything.

“She never had to go and stand before the voters and defend her record. James Comey doesn’t have to do that, Andy McCabe didn’t have to do that. Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, James Baker, none of those guys had to do that and yet look at the power and influence they had.”

Jordan created the House Freedom Caucus in 2015 alongside the current chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), to give a voice to “flyover country” Americans who feel their interests aren’t represented in Washington, D.C.

“Perhaps the biggest counter to the swamp that I’ve been involved with was the formation of the Freedom Caucus,” Jordan said. “We formed a group, people thought who are these guys, what is this, and now, and I don’t want this to sound in any way boastful, and I give so much credit to our chairman now, Mark Meadows, and our entire team, but now it’s like the Freedom Caucus is always referred to as one of the most influential blocks of votes on Capitol Hill.”

Jordan’s aggressive advocacy on behalf of Americans who aren’t favored by the Washington political and media Establishments hasn’t been without costs to him and his family. He was recently accused by several former wrestlers at Ohio State University where Jordan once coached of ignoring their complaints about inappropriate groping by a team doctor.

The congressman vigorously denied ever having been told of such complaints. The scandal cooled immensely after it became known that the law firm representing one of Jordan’s accusers, Perkins Coie, also served as a kind of bag man in conveying Clinton campaign and DNC payments to anti-Trump dossier author Steele.

meet the author

Connor D. Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected].