Amash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump

Amash won't rule out Libertarian challenge to Trump

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashSanders co-chair: Greenwald charges could cause 'chilling effect on journalism across the world' Trump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall MORE (R-Mich.) on Tuesday said he would not rule out a third-party challenge to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says US has coronavirus 'totally under control' Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Collins breaks with GOP on attempt to change impeachment rules resolution 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 JohnsonThe 'Green' new deal that Tom Perez needs to make The Trump strategy: Dare the Democrats to win Trump challenger: 'All bets are off' if I win New Hampshire primary MORE was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 2016. Massachusetts Gov. William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldWeld says Trump wants reporters to 'roam free' in Iran, but not US Trump primary challengers left off Wisconsin ballot Bannon: 'We need the Republican establishment on board' to reelect Trump 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 McCarthyMark Mellman: A failure of GOP leadership Overnight Energy: Trump at Davos joins effort to plant 1 trillion trees | Trump says he doesn't know 'very angry' Greta Thunberg | New details on GOP climate plan | Trump withdraws water supply rule New details on Republican climate plan show emphasis on trees 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care: Justices won't fast-track ObamaCare case before election | New virus spreads from China to US | Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement Why Senate Republicans should eagerly call witnesses to testify Trump health chief: 'Not a need' for ObamaCare replacement plan right now 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.