Amash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump

Amash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashJohn Oliver advocates Trump impeachment inquiry for 'high crimes and misdemeanors' John Oliver advocates Trump impeachment inquiry for 'high crimes and misdemeanors' The Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? MORE (R-Mich.) on Tuesday said he would not rule out a third-party challenge to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE in 2020.

The Hill asked Amash if he is thinking about leaving the Republican Party to run for president as the Libertarian Party candidate.

“I’m just focused on defending the Constitution, it’s not something I’ve thought about,” Amash said. “I don’t take things off the table like that, but it’s not something at the forefront of my considerations right now. I’m just focused on my job. I wouldn’t take running for governor off the table or Senate or statehouse, I don’t take things off the table.” 

Amash this week became the first Republican in the House to support impeachment proceedings against Trump.

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In interviews this year, Amash has toyed with the idea of switching parties and running for president. The Michigan Republican has described himself as the only Libertarian member of Congress and has been increasingly critical of the GOP, accusing the party of abandoning its conservative values in the age of Trump.

Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark told The Hill there’s a full-scale effort underway to convince Amash to register as a Libertarian and run for president against Trump.

“There are a lot of Libertarian Party members actively encouraging Rep. Amash to switch parties and seek the Libertarian nomination,” Sarwark said. “This is probably the most organized recruitment effort I’ve seen going back to 2012 when people were trying to recruit [former Texas Rep.] Ron Paul.”

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonAmash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump Buzz grows Amash will challenge Trump as a Libertarian Potential GOP primary challenger: Trump's 'contempt for the American people' behind possible bid MORE was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 2016. Massachusetts Gov. William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldTrump challenger Weld renews calls for his resignation after comments on political opponent Trump challenger Weld renews calls for his resignation after comments on political opponent Pollster: Trump has 'a lot of work to do' for 2020 reelection campaign MORE ran on the ticket as vice president.

There was hope in some quarters that Johnson would meet the polling requirements to make the general election debate stage, but he struggled with embarrassing gaffes and Washington insiders never took his candidacy seriously.

Still, the Johnson-Weld ticket earned 4.5 million votes in the general election, tripling the previous best showing by the Libertarian Party.

There is hunger in some quarters on the right for a conservative challenger to Trump in 2020.

Weld launched a primary challenge earlier this year, but his candidacy has failed to gain traction. Trump maintains about 90 percent support from Republicans, and the national party has taken steps ensure a primary challenger does not pose a threat to the president’s reelection efforts.

The “Never Trump” Republicans, led by former Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, have been trying to recruit their own candidate to either run in the primary or as an independent, with no success.

There has generally not been much overlap between Kristol’s neoconservatism and the libertarian right, but Kristol and his allies have praised Amash for taking a stand on the matter of impeachment.

“I say this as someone at odds with Amash on lots of issues important to me and I think to him — all honor to Justin Amash, who has done so much today to set an example of constitutional responsibility and mature, civic discourse,” Kristol tweeted.

National Review writer David French, whom Kristol tried to recruit to challenge Trump in 2016, said he’d vote for Amash if he is the Libertarian Party nominee in 2020.

While third-party efforts traditionally have fallen into the background of a presidential race, Amash could have an enormous impact on the 2020 general election in his home state of Michigan.

Trump carried Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes, and the Wolverine State will be a top battleground state for both sides in 2020, along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Trump’s allies are not taking the threat from Amash seriously at the moment, dismissing chatter about his third-party bid as a total fantasy.

Still, the White House and GOP leaders in Congress are furious with Amash for taking a stance in favor of impeachment.

The president has lashed out at Amash over Twitter, calling him a “total lightweight” and accusing him of grandstanding “for the sake of getting his name out there.” 

“Justin is a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents’ hands,” Trump said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Congressional Award — a beacon of hope  The case for congressional pay raises McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' MORE (R-Calif.) has unloaded on Amash, calling his remarks about impeachment “disturbing” and questioning “whether he’s even in our Republican conference.”

“He never supported the president, and I think he's just looking for attention,” McCarthy said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures."

McCarthy also accused Amash, who co-sponsored the bill to block Trump’s emergency declaration at the border, of voting more with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCalifornia Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry California Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments MORE (D-Calif.) than with Republicans.

“I think everyone knows he’s lying,” Amash fired back. “But that’s typical Kevin."

Updated at 4 p.m.