Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump
Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashOvernight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland George Conway pens op-ed calling for Trump impeachment proceedings MORE, the lone Republican in Congress to call for President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel OKs space military branch Harris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Harris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power MORE’s impeachment, says he has no desire to play “spoiler” if he launches a third-party bid against Trump in 2020.
“I have no interest in playing spoiler. When I run for something, I run to win,” the Michigan Republican told The Hill on Wednesday as he descended the steps of the Capitol toward his office.
“I haven’t ruled anything out,” Amash replied when asked if he’s made a decision about a possible presidential bid.
But if he does run, some of his GOP colleagues worry that the five-term Libertarian-leaning congressman from Grand Rapids could siphon tens of thousands of votes away from Trump in a general election, potentially moving Rust Belt states that Trump won in 2016 — such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — into the Democratic column next year.
Some Republicans acknowledged that an Amash candidacy could be enough to hand the White House to the Democratic nominee, be it former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTop Sanders adviser says brokered convention ‘definitely’ possible Top Sanders adviser says brokered convention ‘definitely’ possible Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing MORE, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTop Sanders adviser says brokered convention ‘definitely’ possible Top Sanders adviser says brokered convention ‘definitely’ possible First major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing sharpens attacks on both sides MORE (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Harris calls Trump ‘a national security threat’ after he says he’d take information from foreign power Warren, Gillibrand double down on impeachment after Trump interview MORE (D-Mass.) or someone else.
Rep. Doug LaMalfaDouglas (Doug) LaMalfaThirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill The 23 Republicans who voted against the anti-hate resolution House passes anti-hate measure amid Dem tensions MORE (R-Calif.) said a third-party bid by Amash “could screw things up.”
“I respect Libertarians, I like them a lot. But it doesn’t take away from the Democrats. It will take away from the conservative viewpoint and that hurts our side,” LaMalfa said. “You guys want to elect Biden or Crazy Bernie, then that’s the way to do it.
“I don’t have anything against him, but when people do this stuff, all it does is tear down the ability of Republicans to unite,” he added. “Maybe it’s some sort of vendetta against Trump.”
Some GOP colleagues close to Amash, 39, predict he ultimately will not challenge Trump next year.
“He has no plans to run,” said one close friend.
But other Republican lawmakers said the headline-grabbing steps Amash has taken in recent weeks suggest he is gearing up for a presidential bid.
Amash rocked Washington last month when he became the first Republican lawmaker to declare — after reading the 448-page report from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE — that Trump had obstructed justice and engaged in “impeachable conduct.”
On Wednesday, Amash broke with Republicans again when he was the only GOP member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee to vote in favor of holding Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrACLU asks Supreme Court to send census case back to lower court over new evidence ACLU asks Supreme Court to send census case back to lower court over new evidence DOJ to interview CIA officers on Russian interference conclusions: Report MORE and Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossACLU asks Supreme Court to send census case back to lower court over new evidence ACLU asks Supreme Court to send census case back to lower court over new evidence Amash breaks with GOP in Barr, Ross contempt vote MORE in contempt.
That move came just days after Amash resigned from the House Freedom Caucus he helped launch four years ago with Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Former chairman appears at House Oversight contempt debate MORE (R-N.C.), Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHouse panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House Oversight votes to hold Barr, Ross in contempt MORE (R-Ohio) and other conservatives. The caucus has stood for reduced federal spending, limited government and protecting the Constitution, and helped send then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz MORE (R-Ohio) into an early retirement in 2015.
But after Trump’s election, Amash grew increasingly frustrated that many caucus members exhibited what he considered blind loyalty to Trump, defending the president at any and all costs.
“Justin’s not running for reelection” to the House, said Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzDemocrats begin Mueller hearings with Watergate-era witness Democrats begin Mueller hearings with Watergate-era witness Watergate figure John Dean earns laughter for responses to GOP lawmakers MORE (R-Fla.), a Trump loyalist. “Justin’s running for president.”
Trump is now taking direct aim at Amash, huddling with Vice President Pence, Meadows and others to discuss the prospect of backing a GOP primary challenger to Amash in his reelection bid in the House, Politico reported Wednesday.
A new poll out this week showed Amash trailing little-known GOP challenger Jim Lower by 16 points — 49 percent to 33 percent.
But Amash seems unfazed by it all, saying he’s not worried by the threat of a Trump-backed primary challenge and that he would have no regrets if his call for impeachment ended his political career.
“I’ve spent my whole time in office under fire from different people, so it doesn’t worry me. I’ve had multiple elections where people thought I was the underdog and won by large margins,” Amash said in Wednesday’s interview. “I don’t really worry about any of that stuff. I have a lot of confidence in what I’m doing, in the American people, and especially the people in my district.”
“First I’m not going to lose, and second, I don’t have any regrets about doing the right thing,” he added, referring to a House race. “I didn’t run for office to sell out my principles to the party or to any one person. I’ve promised the people of my district I would operate in a certain way, uphold the Constitution, uphold the rule of law, fight for limited government and liberty, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Amash, the first Palestinian American to serve in Congress, won election in the Tea Party wave that swept Republicans into power in 2010. The attorney and former state lawmaker burnished a reputation as a strict constitutionalist and constant thorn in the side of GOP leadership.
His divorce from the ultraconservative Freedom group has been a trying episode.
“It’s certainly sad. It’s not like a happy moment to leave a group I helped found,” Amash said. “But I felt it was the right move under the circumstances.”
He also said he remains friends with Jordan, Meadows and others in the Freedom Caucus. On Wednesday, Amash sat next to and chatted with Jordan during an Oversight hearing before the contempt vote.
When asked Wednesday if he was aware of an Amash presidential bid, Meadows told The Hill: “I only have heard about his desire to run for reelection for his congressional seat. Nothing more.”
Amash’s call for impeachment put many of his GOP colleagues in an extremely difficult spot. Many Republicans want to be able to say that Amash is standing on principle and a man of conviction, one senior GOP lawmaker explained, but they don’t want to incite the wrath of Trump.
“He’s radioactive right now,” the GOP lawmaker said. “Even his closest friends and most trusted allies are in an awkward position of defending him as a person, because then they become part of the headline.”
Asked if Amash is a man of principle, Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisThere is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen The Go-Go’s rock the stage at annual ‘We Write the Songs’ DC concert House Administration Committee to make election security a ‘primary focus’ MORE (R-Ill.) replied with a smile: “Justin is a friend.”
Davis described a possible Amash presidential bid as “a quixotic adventure.”
“I just don’t see it happening. It’s going to come down to the president and a major Democratic candidate,” said Davis, former chairman of the Republican Main Street Caucus. “He is somebody who marches to his own drummer. What we are seeing with Justin right now is not new to the Republican conference.”
One Freedom Caucus colleague, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), called an Amash presidential bid “political suicide.”
Amash’s push for impeachment “was really over the top. He got elected and is entitled to his own position, but I totally disagree with him,” Lesko said. “I think he should change his mind and get out. He has no chance.”
More than 50 House Democrats have now called on their leadership to launch an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump obstructed justice and committed other crimes. Amash’s Michigan colleague, freshman Democratic Rep. Rashida Tliab, who has known Amash for years, has introduced a resolution calling on the Judiciary Committee to explore impeachment.
But Amash said he is not prepared to sign on as a co-sponsor to any of the Democratic pro-impeachment resolutions, especially since Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing Overnight Health Care: Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after complaints | 2020 Democrats to attend Planned Parenthood abortion forum | House holds first major ‘Medicare for All’ hearing Pelosi to change drug-pricing plan after progressive complaints MORE (D-Calif.) has not expressed any desire to move forward on impeachment.
“Unless the Speaker is interested in acting, the resolutions don’t really have much meaning at this point,” Amash said. “If the Speaker doesn’t want to move forward, the whole thing is dead in the water anyway.”
Juliegrace Brufke contributed.
firstname.lastname@example.org (Scott Wong)
More at https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/448288-rep-amash-stokes-talk-of-campaign-against-trump