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How the House GOP’s investigative tag team navigates the ring

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Republicans are betting the two can pull off a tag team straight out of Jordan’s wrestling days. But Democrats are watching closely, eager to eke out political advantage from any tension points and toe-stepping between the GOP duo.

“We’re communicating. There’s always going to be some overlap, but it’s not a problem right now,” Comer said in a brief interview about their relationship.

Jordan added that he and Comer “work together all the time” including coordinating when the House is in session and talking on the phone when it’s not.

“He can do all the good work he is doing and he can work on some of the same things we’re working on. I don’t care one bit. … I think we make it too complicated. Let’s do our job,” Jordan said.

The duo might appear not to work on paper: Though they vote together most of the time, they’re hardly in lockstep — breaking in recent years on the farm bill and marijuana banking legislation. Notably, Jordan supported Trump-backed challenges to the 2020 election and ignored a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee; Comer has highlighted that he voted to certify President Joe Biden’s win, despite his district going overwhelmingly for Trump in 2020.

And they took significantly different paths to power. Jordan is a former Freedom Caucus chair who saw his stature rise in Washington through his ability to both antagonize and influence House GOP leadership, a bomb-throwing mentality that found favor during the Trump years.

Comer’s ascension through the House GOP ranks was quieter, as he defeated conservative opponents to secure the party’s top spot on the Oversight Committee less than three years ago. But with an extensive political network back in Kentucky, which raises the perennial question of his next planned move, Comer was also no lightweight before taking the gavel.

Comer quipped that Jordan, known for his rapid-fire dialogue, “gets more words per minute in than I do.” And he clarified that he doesn’t see himself as Jordan’s competitor, comparing the Ohioan to fellow Buckeye State native LeBron James while describing himself as “the kid lucky to be on the team.”

“I think it’s good — everybody acts like it’s bad,” Comer said of their relationship. “Maybe I’m a gullible country boy.”

Republicans back him up, however, chalking it up to a case of perceived opposites attracting.

Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), a member of both the GOP’s panel investigating government politicization and the Oversight Committee, acknowledged they have “very different personalities” but said they are “more effective together.”

“It’s not good cop-bad cop, but it’s hard charging vs. a more laid-back personality,” he said.

Predictably, the investigative buddy act has become a top target for Democrats, the White House and Biden-world allies, who view its ascendance as a sign of how Republicans will use their majority: by training all their firepower on the administration, despite lacking evidence for many of their claims. Democrats are particularly confident that Jordan and Comer’s investigations will create blowback for Republicans in purple and Biden-won districts.

And Biden’s party feels it has plenty of material to work with already.

Though Democrats have long scrapped with Jordan, it’s Comer who has caught early and fierce pushback from his cross-aisle colleagues. The Kentuckian has had a near-constant TV presence, prompting private Democratic questions about whether he’s trying to prove himself to a conservative base that’s already embraced Jordan.

Most recently, Comer sparked days of headlines when he cited the late Beau Biden as an example that the U.S. attorney in Delaware had pulled punches on investigating the Biden family. The White House called Comer’s words “despicable.” The Oversight chair argued that his remarks were being widely mischaracterized and that he never said Biden’s son, who died of cancer, “should be indicted.”

It’s not just Democrats who have criticized Comer’s and Jordan’s approaches. Some GOP pundits have recently questioned the pace of Jordan’s investigations, and Comer’s expansive to-do list has sparked media questions about whether he’s spread himself too thin.

They have set up some clear lines of delineation: Jordan is handling a sweeping investigation into the Justice Department and the FBI, two prime targets for Republicans who grew increasingly antagonistic toward the federal law enforcement agencies during the Trump years. Comer, meanwhile, is digging into the botched U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, hunting for government waste broadly and digging into how trillions of dollars in coronavirus aid were spent.

And true to their respective reputations, Jordan has publicly fired off a series of subpoenas for documents and interviews, while Comer issued his first three subpoenas with little fanfare. And Comer has seemed more willing to dive into subjects that won’t necessarily earn him headlines, like border contracts.

But some lines have only grown blurrier: They’ve held back-to-back hearings on the border, with Comer using his to question administration officials, while Jordan called witnesses critical of the Biden administration. The Ohioan also held a field hearing in Yuma., Ariz., that was boycotted by Democrats, lending itself to more of a political-rally vibe.

And while Comer has publicly talked about the impeachment of Biden officials, he’s careful in the halls of Congress to volley questions back in Jordan’s direction.

Jordan is also a member of the Oversight Committee, a dynamic that staff and colleagues say help the two coordinate their strategy. But it’s a visual reminder of the overlap, with Jordan sitting next to Comer on the dais.

Comer is taking the lead on most Hunter Biden-related investigations, but Jordan’s also probing a letter from former intelligence officials warning that a 2020 New York Post story on the president’s son’s laptop could be disinformation. And the Ohioan questioned why Attorney General Merrick Garland did not appoint a special counsel to look into Hunter Biden, whom DOJ has been investigating for years.

The Oversight chief held a hearing last month with former Twitter officials where Republicans grilled them over the social media company’s decision to temporarily restrict the 2020 article. Jordan, meanwhile, held his second politicized-government hearing Thursday focusing on the “Twitter files” — reports conservatives purport show collusion between the FBI and company executives to quash the Post story.

Comer and Jordan viewed those areas as examples of how they might dig into the same general topic but go at it from different angles. But Del. Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary subpanel, used Thursday’s hearing to spotlight the overlap, noting that “three weeks ago House Oversight had this hearing with actual Twitter executives … and that didn’t go so well for the House Republicans.”

The duo’s GOP colleagues, however, are willing to give them broad leeway — for now — as long as they don’t literally hold the same hearing back-to-back.

“They’re good friends. They talk a lot,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas). “If you have two competing hearings doing the same thing, that’s a problem, but I haven’t seen that so far.”

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( With inputs from : www.politico.com )

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