As Greg Sargent points out at the Washington Post, there's a lot of damage that House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio can attempt to inflict on the espionage Act case against Donald Trump.
First, he can harass the prosecution by casting a wide net for documents. On Friday, he sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding internal communications about the FBI decision to search Mar-a-Lago, apparently untroubled by the indictment’s striking allegation that Trump hid reams of documents from his own lawyer before the search.
The Justice Department will most likely respond that divulging sensitive information related to ongoing investigations and prosecutions is against department policy, as it did to a similar GOP demand earlier this year. Whereupon Jordan’s committee will probably issue a subpoena, which the department will most likely fight.
Then what? Presumably the House will come under pressure to hold Garland in contempt. But would that pass? Does House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) really want Republicans representing districts that President Biden carried in 2020 to vote for such a naked effort to derail an apparently damning prosecution? Moderate Senate Republicans have been muted, a possible tell about where their House counterparts will land.
If the case against Trump keeps marching forward and Jordan’s antics produce little, it’s plausible that MAGA Republicans could demand the threat of a government shutdown to defund or otherwise hobble the prosecution.
Republicans could theoretically try to add an amendment to that effect to one of this fall’s spending bills, says Brookings Institution scholar Sarah A. Binder. But it would probably lack the votes to pass the House. “I’m highly skeptical such a move would succeed,” Binder told me.
Of course, Republicans can employ all these moves merely to spin up a miasma of generalized corruption around the prosecution.
“They’re going to want to sabotage the credibility of the case in the minds of the jurors,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, told me. Swalwell suggested that the goal is a “cloud over the case” and a jury “tainted in favor of Donald Trump.”
In this, Jordan can count on the right-wing media, which will treat any and all bits of information he generates about the prosecution as damning proof of its irredeemable corruption. These sources are already smearing the indictment with deranged conspiracy theories.
To be clear, congressional oversight of law enforcement is an essential component of the rule of law. Republicans could theoretically conduct this in good faith and possibly produce genuine evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.
But Jordan’s track record is awful. He has relied on FBI “whistleblowers” who peddle conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. He has issued subpoenas designed to persuade conservative parents to feel like FBI targets when they aren’t. He has harassed academics who study disinformation to pretend that conservatives are being silenced.
Above all, Jordan’s committee seems devoted to creating the impression that he is striking great blows against the Biden administration on behalf of MAGA nation and its persecuted masses, and especially on behalf of Trump himself.
But if the prosecution of Trump advances, MAGA Republicans might demand not performative strikes but real results. If so, the GOP split will deepen between those who want to go through the motions of defending Trump without aligning themselves too firmly against the rule of law, and those who want the House to treat the fantasy of Trump’s persecution as a genuine MAGA emergency, and act accordingly.
Between Jordan and Judge Aileen Cannon, the case is going to take a brutal battering before it even can be tried. As it is, the MAGA response for the events of the last few days is to file impeachment articles (again!) against both President Biden and VP Harris.
This has a long way to go, but the GOP is going to be trying to wreck this every chance they can.