WASHINGTON (CN) – Two of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders before, during and after impeachment were elevated to powerful roles Tuesday on committees tasked with conducting critical oversight of the Trump administration.
The House Republican Steering Committee signaled just last week that Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina were considered shoe-ins for the most senior Republican roles on the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees, respectively.
Those recommendations came to fruition following a closed-door meeting among House Republicans on Tuesday. Jordan, who offered a full-throated and often combative defense of President Trump during the impeachment inquiry in the House, was elected by the GOP to serve as the ranking, or most senior Republican member of the powerful House Judiciary Committee.
Jordan previously filled the ranking member role on the House Oversight Committee, but that position will now be fulfilled by Rep. Meadows. Meadows is set to retire by the end of this year.
Though he is on his way out of Congress, Meadows’ placement on the Oversight Committee puts the North Carolina Republican in a highly visible and much coveted spot.
In December 2018, Meadows openly vied for the role of Trump’s chief of staff but Mick Mulvaney eventually nabbed the job. Then in an exclusive interview with Roll Call this past December, Meadows said while he planned on retiring his proximity to Trump would not dissipate.
“Without getting into any specifics, I’ve had ongoing conversations with the president about helping his team in a closer environment,” Meadows said in the interview.
While Meadows takes the Republican reins on the Oversight Committee from Jordan, Jordan’s move to the House Judiciary Committee means he replaces Trump loyalist Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia.
Collins announced in January that he plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. Ultimately, it was Collins’ announcement that triggered the shuffle of committee members since House rules forbid a ranking member to remain in place while running for a Senate seat.
Meadows and Jordan are co-founders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a group that since its inception in 2015 has courted mostly derision from the traditional and more moderate Republican wings of Congress. But under President Trump, the House Freedom Caucus and its members have flourished, often receiving praise direct from Trump on Twitter and at press conferences.
House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Debbie Lesko, an Arizona Republican, was named as special adviser to Trump’s legal team during his impeachment trial in the Senate. Others caucus members, including its chair Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Rep. Ben Cline of Virginia were vehemently vocal in their support of Trump during the inquiry, regularly parroting the president’s characterization of the proceedings a “sham” or “hoax.”
Gaetz also grabbed headlines at the start of the impeachment inquiry when he led roughly two dozen members of the caucus to a dramatic press conference in the basement of the Capitol to storm the U.S Capitol SCIF, also known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. The private deposition of Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense handling Ukraine-related matters, was actively unfolding before the House Intelligence Committee at the time.
Representative Jordan did not immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday. Meadows’ spokesperson Ben Williamson told Courthouse News that the congressman’s’ priorities as ranking member on the House Oversight Committee would be fleshed out in the coming days.
More immediately, Williamson said Meadows’ primary focus would be on working with committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to lower prescription drug prices.
“We’re hopeful Mr. Meadows and Chairwoman Maloney can find common ground there,” Williamson said. “Our overarching goal will be to seek agreement and policy wins with the Democrats where we can, while also doing our best to guide the committee toward working for results rather than focusing on endless investigations.”
Democrats have not yet formally launched any new investigations into President Trump or his administration since Trump was acquitted on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges by the Senate.
But on Tuesday, rumblings of at least one possible new investigation emanated from the House Judiciary Committee.
“It appears that the president and the attorney general have overruled career prosecutors in order to help Roger Stone, who lied under oath on the president’s behalf,” committee chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., tweeted late Tuesday.
Stone, a longtime Republican donor and associate of Trump’s, was convicted in November of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the House investigation into Russia’s interference of the 2016 election.
The Department of Justice announced its decision to seek a shorter sentence for Stone on Tuesday morning, hours after President Trump blasted the initial 7- to 9-year sentence recommendation as a “horrible and very unfair situation.”
“The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” Trump tweeted, referencing Democrats.
The Justice Department contends its decision to shorten Stone’s sentence was made Monday night long before Trump’s tweet.
But even the hint of impropriety from the White House appeared to raise Nadler’s hackles.
Offering a preview of a possible showdown between Chairman Nadler and the soon-to-be ranking member Jim Jordan on the horizon, Nadler also tweeted on Tuesday: “A president who intervenes in the criminal justice system to help his allies, while punishing people like Lt. Col. Vindman for telling the truth, represents a real danger and the committee will get to the bottom of this.”
Vindman, who sat on the National Security Council, testified during the impeachment inquiry that he believed Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelensky was inappropriate and amounted to an abuse of power. Vindman heard the call firsthand.