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What Rep. Jim Jordan's Constituents Make Of His Role In The Impeachment Inquiry

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The public phase of the House impeachment inquiry has pushed Republican Jim Jordan to center stage.

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JIM JORDAN: You use clear language, clear understanding and commitment. And those two things didn't happen, so you had to be wrong.

SHAPIRO: The Ohio congressman's loyalty to the president and his combative, staccato interrogation style are a big part of why Republicans added him to the committee leading up to the inquiry. Nick Evans of member station WOSU visited Jordan's district to hear what his constituents make of the GOP's high-profile inquisitor.

NICK EVANS, BYLINE: Urbana is an old railroad town in western Ohio, and it's where Jim Jordan was raised. There's a bustling little restaurant downtown called Cafe Paradiso where Rob Pollock is sitting on a stool. He heads this county's Republican Party and says Jordan's brash style is what his voters want to see.

ROB POLLOCK: It's not the same Washington, D.C., that it used to be. So I think it's helpful to our district that our congressman is sharp enough to recognize that what worked in the past isn't going to work in the future.

EVANS: Jordan's hometown is part of a gerrymandered district sprawling from far western Ohio to the outskirts of Cleveland, nearly 150 miles northeast. It's solidly Republican, offering Jim Jordan some latitude in staking out political positions and defending the president.

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JORDAN: The American people see through all this. They understand the facts support the president. They understand this process is unfair, and they see through the whole darn sham.

EVANS: He's become a fixture in the impeachment hearings, jaw set, glaring over the top of his glasses to grill witnesses. That take-no-prisoners style was on full display last week as he interrogated Ambassador Bill Taylor.

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JORDAN: You didn't listen in on President Trump's call and President Zelenskiy's call.

BILL TAYLOR: I did not.

JORDAN: You never talked with chief of staff Mulvaney.

TAYLOR: I never did.

JORDAN: You never met the president.

TAYLOR: That's correct.

JORDAN: You had three meetings again with Zelenskiy, and it didn't come up.

TAYLOR: And two of those they had never heard about, as far as I know.

EVANS: Although Jordan is often associated with the Tea Party, he was elected to Congress a few years earlier. He helped establish the Freedom Caucus, which was able to turn a handful of strident conservative voices into a potent political check on GOP leadership in the House. But Ohio State political scientist Paul Beck notes the congressman's legislative accomplishments are limited. He says, in Congress, there are workhorses and show horses.

PAUL BECK: And he has been more a show horse. He indeed has authored legislation, but I think he really is seen not as much a policy person as a very articulate and passionate spokesperson for the most conservative part of the Republican Party.

EVANS: As an outspoken conservative, Jordan does have his detractors here.

Back at the cafe, William Hoke finds his embrace of President Trump and his aggressive style off-putting.

WILLIAM HOKE: I really don't agree with a lot of the stuff these Republicans do, and I am not appreciative of fact that he seems to be one of the top people defending this guy.

EVANS: Outside of politics, Jordan's defining experience is probably wrestling. He was a state champion all four years in high school and a national champ twice in college. Those around him often bring it up to explain his combative style.

Mike Pucillo was a national wrestling champ at Ohio State a few years after Jordan served there as an assistant coach, and Pucillo used to attend camps run by the Jordan family. He doesn't agree with Jordan's politics.

MIKE PUCILLO: That being said, as a person, like, there are a handful of good people that I think in Washington. And whether I agree or disagree with him, I do think he is probably on the top of the list.

EVANS: But Jordan's wrestling history comes with baggage. Hundreds of athletes and students now report they were molested by a team doctor during Jordan's tenure. Jordan has repeatedly insisted he knew nothing about that.

The congressman has never faced a strong challenger, and many here say as long as he's defending the president, he'll likely remain popular.

For NPR News, I'm Nick Evans in Columbus. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.