Trump lawyers adopt Jim Jordan’s playbook to fight Dem oversight

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President Donald Trump shakes hands with Rep. Jim Jordan

Rep. Jim Jordan stressed in an interview that he’s not coordinating with the White House or President Donald Trump’s outside attorneys in the ongoing congressional oversight battle. | John Minchillo/AP Photo

Rep. Jim Jordan has frequently defended President Donald Trump on cable news and gone to the mat for him on Capitol Hill. Now, the Ohio Republican’s hard-line playbook is making its way into federal court.

Trump’s outside legal team is taking cues from Jordan, adopting many of his arguments and even asking a federal judge to obtain documents from Jordan in order to build their legal case against Democrats’ myriad investigations targeting the president.

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It’s an extraordinary move that underscores the alignment between Trump’s attorneys, who are advancing a restrictive view of Congress’ oversight authority, and Republicans, who are broadly resisting Democrats’ attempts to investigate alleged crimes committed by the president.

At a federal court hearing on Tuesday, at which a judge heard arguments over whether Trump could block a congressional subpoena for his financial records, the president’s top outside counsel, William Consovoy, asked the judge for extra time so that he could consult with Jordan about providing documents that could buttress the president’s case. Trump filed a federal lawsuit last month in his personal capacity seeking to scrap the panel’s subpoena to accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years worth of Trump’s financial documents.

And in an initial court filing seeking to invalidate the subpoena, Consovoy invoked Jordan’s name five times and quoted several passages from his letters to House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) accusing Democrats of trying to “embarrass President Trump” with “partisan attacks.”

Jordan stressed in an interview that he’s not coordinating with the White House or Trump’s outside attorneys in the congressional oversight battle. But the synergy between the two sides is difficult to miss.

“We want the truth to get out there. I’ve been very public about my thoughts on the whole [eight]-year request for business request for documents,” said Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. “I mean, this is before the president was even a candidate. This is ridiculous. I’ve been very clear about that and very public about that.”

At the same time, Jordan has taken steps to maintain the appearance of independence between the two branches of government by skipping some White House meetings, according to his allies, and rebuffing one of Consovoy’s requests altogether.

“A lot of people accuse of us coordination,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a top Jordan ally whose writings were also cited in Consovoy’s court filings. “Candidly, it’s been more independence on their part and on our part than has been widely suggested. If anybody has been extremely reluctant to coordinate with the Trump White House, it has been Jim Jordan, to the point of not taking meetings. He believes in the separation of powers.”

Consovoy did not respond to a request for comment.

Throughout his tenure in Congress, Jordan has been one of the fiercest defenders of Congress’ authority to subpoena information and conduct wide-ranging investigations. He led the charge in 2017 and 2018 to obtain documents from Fusion GPS, with Republicans determined to find out who funded a largely unverified dossier containing salacious allegations about Trump’s connections to Russia. A court ruling upheld the GOP-led effort, which could spell doom for Trump’s effort to block the subpoena for his financial records in court.

Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, a senior Democrat on the Oversight panel, said Consovoy’s overtures to Jordan blur the lines between the executive and legislative branches of government.

“We’ve had whistleblowers express fear about that,” Connolly said, adding that some were “afraid that Republicans would essentially be representatives of the executive branch and compromise their identity and, for that matter, their protections.”

In addition to parroting many of Jordan’s talking points, Consovoy suggested on Tuesday that Jordan would provide to the court — and make public — a memorandum of understanding between the Oversight Committee and the Intelligence and Financial Services panels that Republicans have said supports their argument that Democratic committee leaders are coordinating a political smear of the president.

And later Tuesday, according to GOP committee sources, Consovoy reached out to Jordan’s staff to give them a readout of the court hearing and discuss the possibility of Jordan turning over the memorandum of understanding. But Jordan’s staff, those sources said, told Consovoy that they expect Cummings to turn it over— effectively declining Consovoy’s request.

“The chairman should turn it over. And that’s what I’ll encourage the chairman to do,” Jordan said. “First, he didn’t tell anyone on the committee that he entered into this agreement with another committee chairman. My understanding is that there’s more than one of these agreements out there.”

House general counsel Douglas Letter, who is leading the Democrats’ legal effort, said the memorandum has nothing to do with Mazars, meaning it’s likely an information-sharing agreement about the Financial Services and Intelligence committees’ subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One, seeking other Trump financial documents.

“I’ve always in my mind, in a general sense, viewed the Mazars request kind of in the same framework as the request to Capital One. Because it’s all about the Trump business records,” Jordan said.

Letter offered to provide the document to U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta under seal, indicating the committee had no intention of releasing the document. And on Wednesday, a Democratic committee aide confirmed that “the House is submitting the MOU to the judge to show that it is irrelevant to the determination the court is making about the validity of the congressional subpoena.”

Even if Consovoy and House Republicans aren’t working in tandem, Trump’s lawyers are picking up on the same lines of attack as Jordan and Meadows, who have teamed up to highlight what they say is a coordinated Democratic effort to politically damage the president ahead of his reelection bid.

“Maybe they’re following our lead,” suggested Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

At Tuesday’s federal court hearing, Consovoy relied on many of Jordan’s arguments when responding to questions from Mehta. Most notably, Consovoy echoed a common refrain from Jordan that the committee’s subpoena to Mazars is based on testimony from Michael Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence in part for lying to Congress.

It was a reference to the committee’s initial request to Mazars for Trump’s financial information, which came after Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney and fixer, turned over documents to the committee purportedly showing that Trump artificially inflated the values of his assets when seeking a loan to purchase the Buffalo Bills.

Republicans have said that even if the arrangement was improper, it’s not the business of the Oversight Committee to be poring through the president’s finances dating to his time as a private citizen.

At times, Jordan has worked to subvert subpoenas altogether — a remarkable move that could undermine the same congressional authority that the Ohio Republican once wielded like a sword.

In a Fox News interview last week, Jordan openly encouraged the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to defy a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee. While Trump Jr. ultimately reached an agreement to appear before the panel next month, Jordan’s calls are just another example of how the lawmaker is moving in lockstep with Trump — and his legal team.

“I would encourage him not to come,” Jordan said. “Come on — I think the American people see through this.”

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