Representative Jim Jordan wanted to be on the January 6 Select Committee, as one of minority leader Kevin McCarthy’s five appointees. He was sure to be a histrionic obstructionist, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi wisely said no. Now, he’s likely to be there anyway—as a witness, after belatedly admitting that he spoke to Trump on Sedition Day. Then, on Saturday night, after Tennessee Republicans presented McCarthy with a ceremonial gavel (to use in the tragic event that he becomes speaker), he quipped that “it would be hard not to hit” Pelosi with it.
And on Monday, The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer revealed the dark money and big players powering the Big Lie about the 2020 election—Donald Trump was robbed—that McCarthy and Jordan are fighting so hard to put over on the American people. Mayer’s piece isn’t directly about the January 6 insurrection, or Jordan and McCarthy’s efforts to excuse it. But she pulls together the thugs, large and small, petty and powerful, powered by dark money, that now mostly control the GOP. Together, they are working toward voter suppression and election subversion, and some actively helped plan and foment the violence of January 6.
Jordan, who used to be a joke even within much of the GOP, is now so powerful that McCarthy pulled all of his appointees to the select committee when Pelosi wouldn’t seat him. Twice last week Jordan, awkwardly, admitted that he spoke with Donald Trump on Sedition Day—first to Fox’s Bret Baier, and then to Ohio Spectrum News reporter Taylor Popielarz.
Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall transcribed the normally blunt Jordan’s stammering to Popielarz: “Yeah, I mean I speak, I spoke with the president last week. I speak with the president all the time. I spoke with him on January 6th. I mean I talk with President Trump all the time.” Asked whether they spoke before, during, or after the Capitol attack, Jordan continued to stammer: “Uh, I’d have to go, I’d, I, I, I spoke with him that day after, I think after. I don’t know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don’t know. Uh, I’d have to go back and, I mean I don’t, I don’t, I don’t know, uh, that, when those conversations happened. But, um, what I know is that I spoke with him all the time.”
Jordan should face a subpoena from the select committee to jog his memory, ASAP. So should McCarthy, who has also admitted that he talked with Trump that day. But where he once depicted the conversation as hostile, with McCarthy confronting Trump about his supporters’ violence and Trump deflecting, over time his story has evolved to defending Trump for calling off the mob (though he did it hours late and in sending them his “love”). And now the tough guy is boasting that he might “hit” Pelosi with his gavel if he’s ever elected speaker. (She called him a moron last week.)
The thrashing about of these two men might not matter much except for the fact that, increasingly, the muscle of the GOP is behind them. A lot of the big money and the brains behind the capitalist backlash of the last 40 years have turned at least some attention away from rigging the system, including Congress, state legislatures, and the courts, in favor of the wealthy, and instead to rigging elections themselves.
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Mayer’s terrifying must-read looks at the way the leaders of groups like the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, the Federalist Society, the Susan B. Anthony List, FreedomWorks, and others have followed McCarthy, Jordan, and other Republican leaders in turning their attention to issues of supposed “voter fraud” (which is actually almost nonexistent) throughout the country, but particularly in purple states. Election law expert Rick Hasen told Mayer, “I’m scared shitless.” As he often does, Hasen speaks for me.
Mayer captures one of the oddities that make it hard for so many journalists to capture the big picture here: So many of the small details are inane. She covers the Arizona “forensic audit” (or “fraudit”) in Maricopa County, and the cast of bizarros behind it, from the grifting Cyber Ninjas to the Overstock.com guy to babbling QAnonics. It’s easy to chuckle at the lunacy on display. But Republicans in other states, and within powerful big-money groups, are taking notes, and hoping to spread the election-undermining tactic to other states where Biden’s win was fairly narrow—Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania among them. The point is not that they can steal the 2020 election—they can’t—but they’re laying the groundwork for 2022 and 2024. That’s what has Hasen “scared shitless”: the spread of “election subversion,” new laws passed across the country that will elevate election officials “who will mess with the count,” he told Mayer.
There’s a lot in Mayer’s report I didn’t know. I missed that Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society architect of the right-wing court takeover, has moved into the business of election takeovers. He’s rebranded the “Judicial Education Project” as the “Honest Elections Project.” Who knew that the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List had moved from blocking women seeking abortions to blocking voters seeking to vote? (Not me.) I’ve always seen Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA as a joke, but Mayer shows how the Arizona-based group has been central to efforts to promote conspiracies about voter fraud there. As Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (now running for governor) tells her: “It looks so comical you have to laugh at it sometimes…. It’s dangerous. It’s feeding the kind of misinformation that led to the January 6th insurrection.”
Seeded throughout Mayer’s piece, in fact, is the way that players in the Arizona audit were active in Trump’s overall effort to subvert the election, and some got involved in planning the January 6 insurrection. As I wrote last week, some of these same groups are behind state and local efforts to block action on Covid too.
I’m leaving out a lot here, because I want everyone to read the piece for themselves. While Democrats squabble about infrastructure, we need real action on voting rights. Jordan, McCarthy, and the “fraudit” are easy to mock, but big Republican interests are aligned on this issue in a way Democrats do not seem to be, yet.