House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, subpoenaed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Friday, intensifying his pursuit of documents from her office. It’s been a priority for Jordan since the Georgia prosecutor indicted former President Donald Trump and 18 others for attempting to steal the 2020 presidential election in that state. But while his past attempts to extract information from Willis have been blatant in their desire to undercut the case against Trump, this time around Jordan is being a bit more subtle.
Jordan’s letter to Willis cites an alleged whistleblower who was fired from her office in what the former employee claims was retaliation for raising concerns about how federal grants have potentially been spent. An expressed concern about how Willis has been spending federal funds is the thing Jordan has been using as a thin justification for his attempts to undercut her case against Trump. Whatever the merit of the alleged whistleblower’s claims, if there’s any merit at all, there’s no reason to believe Jordan actually cares about them.
The former employee, Amanda Timpson, led a program focused on gang prevention and intervention in 2018 under Willis’ predecessor. Timpson claimed in an interview with The Washington Free Beacon that she was demoted and then fired after telling a Willis campaign aide that he couldn’t use money from a federal grant issued for gang prevention programming to buy unrelated materials. Jordan cites that report in his letter, claiming that the “allegations raise serious concerns about whether you were appropriately supervising the expenditure of federal grant funding allocated to your office and whether you took actions to conceal your office’s unlawful use of federal funds.”
Willis’ office said in a Friday-morning statement that the “false allegations” Jordan cites are “included in baseless litigation filed by a holdover employee from the prior administration who was terminated for cause.” The statement added that “the courts that have ruled found no merit in these claims” and that they “expect the same result in any pending litigation.” Willis is referring to a discrimination suit that Timpson filed in federal court that was dismissed and an ongoing suit Timpson filed under the Georgia Whistleblower Act. As of December, no trial date had been set in that lawsuit. Willis also added that the county’s “federally-funded Sexual Assault Kit Initiative has been cited by the United States Attorney General as a model program.”
NBC News has not verified any of the claims that Timpson has made, but any evidence that federal funds were misused would be a serious matter. That said, the focus on this particular program is new for Jordan. In his initial letter to Willis in August, Jordan was transparent about his motives; he acknowledged he was responding to the Trump indictment. Whether federal money had been used in the Trump investigation was third on his list of reasons for demanding documents from her. A Dec. 5 follow-up letter focused more on whether Willis had cooperated with the House Jan. 6 committee (which Jordan himself had not) than anything involving federal grant money.
Friday’s subpoena is the latest in what is a clear pattern of Jordan and his fellow House Republicans trying to investigate those who investigate Trump. It’s the same thing they attempted with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg before he’d even charged Trump with anything, right down to citing his potential misuse of federal funds in his investigation of Trump paying hush money to adult film actor Stormy Daniels.
The Judiciary Committee’s letter is the second notable attempt to discredit the case against Trump that focuses less on the allegations against Trump and more on Willis’ character. Former Trump campaign official Mike Roman, a co-defendant in the Georgia case, filed a motion to have his case dismissed last month. He said Willis had carried on an intimate relationship with a private attorney she appointed to work the case and had thereby created a conflict of interest that was unfair to him as a defendant. In a Friday statement, Willis acknowledged the relationship with the attorney she appointed to the case, but she denied that she had any financial incentive to pursue the indictment and said the case has not been compromised.
Against all evidence to the contrary, Jordan’s letter to Willis on Friday was keen to stress the very real legislative need for her compliance. The committee has “jurisdiction to conduct oversight of matters concerning DOJ grant programs and criminal justice to inform potential legislative reforms,” he wrote, implying that this has long been a major concern of his. This façade is his attempt to give legitimacy to the GOP’s requests. Congress only has subpoena power to compel testimony that will better inform lawmakers as they write laws.
Call me cynical, but I’m having a hard time believing legislating is at the top of Jordan’s mind here. He’s not exactly known for his capacity for drafting laws, and none of the investigations he’s been running have produced any drafts seeking to update, revise or otherwise change any law. He wouldn’t be interested at all in how federal dollars devoted to gang prevention were being spent if they’d been given to a district attorney who wasn’t prosecuting Donald Trump.