Finally, a deeply conservative member of Congress, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, has put the US Constitution before partisan loyalty to President Donald Trump. The question is – will this inspire other Republicans to do the same, or will they continue to defend Trump against any claims of wrongdoing arising from Robert Mueller’s investigation? If social media is any indication, it’s likely they will do the latter – at least for now.
In any event, on Saturday, Amash became the first GOP congressional leader to call for the impeachment of Trump. As Amash laid it out in a series of tweets, “President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.” Amash went on to detail how he reached his conclusion, noting it only came after “having read Mueller’s redacted report carefully and completely” and discussing the pertinent testimony of witnesses with his staff.
Based on that analysis, Amash, who was first elected to the House in 2010, wrote point blank, “Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment.”
It’s truly stunning to see a member of Congress publicly call for impeachment of the President who is in his own party. But, as Amash explained is his tweets, his motivation to break from the GOP party line was simple: “When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law – the foundation of liberty – crumbles.”
Amash is right. You don’t need to have a Ph.D. in political science to understand that if elected officials blindly defend the actions of a president simply because they are in the same political party, it’s a prescription for disaster for our nation. That is the very definition of putting politics before our Constitution.
Now before Amash is dismissed by Trump or his allies as some sort of closet liberal, let’s take a hard look at his record. Amash is as conservative as they come. In 2015, he, along with “some of most hard-line GOP lawmakers” – as Politico noted at the time – founded the House Freedom Caucus to push for laws that advocate very conservative positions, including on issues of immigration. Other co-founders include Trump’s current acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who at the time was a congressional representative from South Carolina.
Amash has also long received high ratings from right-wing groups like the Conservative Review, which gave Amash an “A rating” this year for “supporting conservative principles” 90% of the time, placing him ahead of hardliners like Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Add to that, in 2018, the American Conservative Union – headed by frequent Trump defender Matt Schlapp – gave Amash an award for “conservative achievement” for his “adherence to conservative principles” 88% of the time, placing him way ahead of Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, who only received a 71% rating.
And despite Trump’s tweet Sunday morning attacking Amash as not just a “loser” but as someone “who opposes me,” since the new Congress began in January, Amash has voted nearly 92% in favor of positions for which Trump has advocated. One notable exception was Amash being one of 13 Republicans in the House voting to overturn Trump’s declaration of national emergency to fund the border wall.
Amash is clearly a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. And as such, he has put the US Constitution over partisan politics or loyalty to Trump. But being a conservative is not enough for Trumps allies – what matters is loyalty to Trump. We saw this Sunday morning when the chairperson of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel took to Twitter to attack Amash as “parroting the Democrats’ talking points on Russia.”
Meanwhile, the Michigan State GOP Chair went after Amash, claiming his criticism of Trump is simply a “desperate attempt to grab headlines and advance his own presidential ambitions.” (Amash has not formally announced a run for President as a Republican, but in April he did note it was on his “radar.”)
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Sen. Mitt Romney only complicated matters for Amash, when he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he had “reached a different conclusion” and didn’t believe “there is the full element that you need to prove an obstruction of justice case.”
The question now is, will other Republicans heed Amash’s call to support at least an impeachment inquiry or follow Romney’s direction and conclude it is not worth pursuing? (For that matter, will Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally be moved to call for an impeachment inquiry into Trump, a move supported by over two-thirds of Democrats?) Or, will the GOP continue to allow itself to be transformed from the party of Lincoln to the party of Trump? For the good of our nation, let’s hope that Amash will inspire at least some Republicans in Congress to choose the rule of law over Trump.