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Rep. Jordan On Giuliani's Role In Ukraine Strategy: Trump Can 'Have Who He Wants'

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has joined the House Intelligence Committee to bolster the Republican defense of President Trump in the impeachment inquiry.
Mhari Shaw

Updated at 8:29 p.m. ET

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is doubling down on his defense of President Trump as well as Rudy Giuliani's role in the Ukraine controversy amid the impeachment inquiry.

In an interview with All Things Considered host Audie Cornish, Jordan argued, "The president is allowed to have who he wants involved in diplomatic concerns." Jordan said this in reference to Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer and former New York City mayor, who has become a central figure in the inquiry. At one point, Jordan claimed that Giuliani's role was akin to prior presidents having people like U2 lead singer Bono "do diplomatic missions."

Jordan's defense of Giuliani's role comes a day after longtime U.S. diplomats William Taylor and George Kent raised questions about the "irregular" diplomatic channel that they say Giuliani directed. Taylor and Kent say they were left out of that loop as Giuliani sought to pressure the Ukrainian government to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

On the question of military aid being withheld from Ukraine — which impeachment witnesses have said was tied to the ask for investigations — Jordan said the White House needed to vet the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

"You know what — this new guy, Zelenskiy, this former media star" needed to be approached, Jordan said. Once Vice President Pence, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and others who attended his inauguration returned saying, " 'This guy is the real deal. He's worth the risk. He's worth the investment, ' " the money was then released, Jordan argued. He also noted that the congressionally approved aid was released "in spite of the fact that Ukraine's one of the most corrupt countries on the planet."

The money was released without explanation of what had changed on Sept. 11, as lawmakers' pressure began to mount about the aid holdup.

Echoing a common argument from GOP lawmakers, Jordan said that the aid was ultimately delivered and that the investigations into the Bidens never materialized, so the whole issue is moot.

He dismissed the allegation that Trump acted in his own interest rather than the country's. He said that the president has tried to fight foreign corruption and scale back U.S. aid abroad across the board.

"The national interest is this president, who is not a big fan of foreign aid, who understands how corrupt Ukraine is and wants European countries to do more. This president actually released the aid" in addition to military weapons.

NPR's David Welna has reported, however, that back in May the Defense Department had already certified that Ukraine had taken "substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability."

Jordan was appointed just last week to the House Intelligence Committee by GOP leadership, adding another fierce ally and defender of Trump to the panel. The former wrestling coach has proved pugnacious in the past, something House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy alluded to in his statement announcing Jordan's addition, saying that the Ohioan "has been on the front lines in the fight for fairness and truth. His addition will ensure more accountability and transparency in this sham process."

Jordan has already had a visible role in the impeachment inquiry, as the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee.

In his inaugural outing during Wednesday's hearing — the first public hearing of the inquiry — Jordan didn't disappoint Republicans. He grilled both Kent and Taylor, dismissing their testimony as irrelevant and convoluted, secondhand information.

"You're [Democrats'] star witness. I've seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this," Jordan told Taylor.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: November 14, 2019 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of this story mischaracterized a remark by Rep. Jim Jordan. He did not say foreign policy is the sole purview of the White House. Instead, he said, "The president is allowed to have who he wants involved in diplomatic concerns."
Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.