Jim Jordan left himself open, and Steve Schmidt delivered the blow. Schmidt ran John McCain’s presidential campaign and long has voiced disgust for the Trumpian takeover of the Republican Party. He tweeted on Thursday after watching Jordan, who represents the sprawling, hook-shaped Fourth District in central Ohio, perform as a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

What did Schmidt say?

“Jim Jordan is a clown, albeit a dangerous one. He is an heir to McCarthy, Demagogic, dangerous and faithless to his oath and America. He is unfit to serve in Congress.”

Factor into the equation the Twitter effect about edginess and even hyperbole, and the words still are brutal. What did Jordan do?

Nothing he hasn’t done in the past. Recall the interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN, Jordan suggesting the president has no problem with the truth. In this instance, there was a cumulative effect as Jordan badgered Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, in an attempt to advance the narrative that the FBI and the Justice Department have withheld information and thus are trying to block Congress from fulfilling its oversight role regarding the executive branch.

Actually, that oversight claim serves as cover. Jordan and other Trump allies in the House appear most devoted to eroding the credibility of the investigation into the Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible links to the Trump campaign. Robert Mueller leads the investigation. Rosenstein is his boss.

Consider the indications of collusion, to pick a word. Early last week, the president tweeted, “ … you do have to ask why the DOJ & FBI aren’t giving over documents.” At the hearing, Jordan asked repeatedly in various ways: “Why are you keeping information from Congress?”

The suggestion is that there is something rotten in the investigation. Yet follow the Jordan questioning, and there is no there there.

Without evidence, he invites the impression that Rosenstein wrongly redacted information and instructed witnesses to withhold answers to questions. He points to a Fox News report about Rosenstein threatening to subpoena records from staff members of the House Intelligence Committee, the chairman of the panel having proved eager to do the president’s bidding. (Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, has said the threat wasn’t made.)

Jordan stumbles for a moment, having said “phone calls,” which, as Rosenstein notes, cannot be subpoenaed (triggering laughter from some in the audience). That wasn’t Jordan’s most embarrassing moment. It came seconds later.

“Now, who are we supposed to believe,” Jordan starts, “staff members who we’ve worked with, who’ve never misled us, or you guys who we’ve caught hiding information from us, who tell a witness not to answer our questions? Who are we supposed to believe?”

Who is doing the threatening?

The committee took a break so House Republicans could approve a resolution demanding the Justice Department comply with House document requests by July 6.

Rosenstein didn’t just deny issuing such a threat. He reminded he was under oath, and he kept trying to add, amid the Jordan hectoring, a helpful bit of reality. House Republicans started asking for documents last year. A process has been constructed, including a specific search tool. So far, the Associated Press reports, the department has supplied more than 800,000 documents.

Justice is working on providing more. It asked for additional time — just days before the hearing — and the office of Speaker Paul Ryan described the request as “reasonable.”

The reason for the hearing was to discuss the Justice inspector general report on the FBI handling of the Hillary Clinton email case. The gist of the report’s conclusion goes: Follow the long-established rules! Which is just what Justice is seeking to do as it weighs the documents to share, the priority on protecting the integrity of the investigation.

If anything, the department already has been too accommodating.

Jordan and friends? Their angle is clear. Keep asking for additional documents, and two things happen: They may get a glimpse of where the investigation is headed, plus a chance to leak and shape public perception, or they can complain loudly, as Jordan did, about how their requests have been denied.

No wonder Steve Schmidt tweeted in such fury. Which gets to another thing: This is a scrap among Republicans. Rosenstein is a Trump appointee. So is Christopher Wray, the FBI director. Jim Jordan doesn’t appear interested in getting to the bottom of what Russia did and how. He has other priorities, apparent in his badgering of Rod Rosenstein.

Douglas is the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com editorial page editor. He can be reached at 330-996-3514 or emailed at mdouglas@thebeaconjournal.com.