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Law Firm Sought Interview With Rep. Jim Jordan About Doctor's Alleged Abuse

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Gage Skidmore
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Flickr

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan said on Wednesday he never knew of sexual abuse by a now-dead doctor who examined wrestlers Jordan helped coach decades ago at The Ohio State University.

Jordan, speaking to reporters at a July Fourth rally in Fremont, repeatedly denied claims by ex-wrestlers Mike DiSabato and Dunyasha Yetts, who say the powerful Republican congressman from Ohio knew back then that Richard Strauss was groping male athletes.

Jordan acknowledged that Strauss was among faculty members and other employees who used the same open shower area as athletes in the building where they practiced, but he said he and other coaches with whom he has spoken weren't aware of any abuse by Strauss.

"We knew of no abuse. Never heard of abuse," Jordan said. "If we had, we'd have reported it."

Porter Wright, a Columbus law firm representing Ohio State, said late Tuesday that an investigative legal team unsuccessfully reached out to Jordan’s office by phone and email requesting he participate in an interview.

Emails provided by Porter Wright, dated May 14, 2018, show investigators seeking to set up a time to talk. But Jordan did not respond.  According to Jordan's spokesman, the email address they used is a nonexistent account, but investigators say they reached out by phone on June 12, 2018, too. The special counsel overseeing the investigation says they have now begun arranging an interview with Jordan's office.

Although that seems to contradict a statement from Jordan's office that he had “not been contacted by investigators about the matter," Kathleen Trafford of Porter Wright said on Thursday that "it appears that Representative Jordan did not receive these messages."

"The investigative team is continuing its efforts to schedule an interview with Rep. Jordan, as well as other individuals with potential knowledge relating to the allegations," Trafford says.

Male Ohio State athletes from 14 sports have alleged sexual misconduct by Strauss, who was on the faculty and medical staff and published a variety of research.

Strauss died in 2005, and his death was ruled a suicide. Surviving relatives haven't responded to messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment about allegations against him.

The university has urged anyone with relevant information to contact the law firm Perkins Coie, which is conducting an independent investigation. More than 150 former students and witnesses have been interviewed.

Another law firm representing the university in the matter has said investigators tried unsuccessfully to contact Jordan's office by phone and email to seek an interview with him. The congressman said his office has no record of such outreach and he is willing to talk with investigators but had nothing scheduled as of Wednesday.

He called the timing of the wrestlers' allegations about him "interesting."

"If there is any type of abuse of these folks, we want them to get justice, but it's interesting that the timing is what it is in light of things that are going on in Washington," Jordan said.

Jordan, a founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is a potential contender for U.S. House speaker. He has taken leading roles in fighting the Affordable Care Act and in pushing back against the government's Russia investigation, most recently interrogating Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in committee.

A spokesman for Speaker Paul Ryan said the university has rightfully initiated an investigation and the speaker will await its findings.

Jordan on Wednesday also expressed concern about being among recipients of an email from DiSabato and said his office planned to touch base with Capitol police about it, but he didn't elaborate.

Updated July 5 at 5:15 PM: Added information from Porter Wright about emails to Rep. Jim Jordan.