GOP rep: Trump has ‘extra-constitutional’ view of presidency
Rep. Justin Amash would be all too happy to give President-elect Donald Trump a lesson on the Constitution.
The Michigan Republican, founder of the House Liberty Caucus, said he’s not sure if the billionaire real estate mogul and reality TV star has ever read the founding document and suggested Trump doesn’t have a good grasp of Constitution 101.
“He seems to believe that government works like a business and he is the CEO of the business, and that is not how it works,” Amash said in an interview with The Hill on Friday. “We have separate branches, checks and balances, federalism.
“I don’t think it’s out of any bad intention. I think he just views the job in a sort of ‘extra-constitutional’ way, outside of the Constitution,” Amash added. “I don’t think our framework in this country really comes into play when he’s thinking about how the job should operate.”
“Do you think Trump has read the Constitution?” a reporter asked.
“I don’t know,” Amash replied.
House and Senate GOP lawmakers are mostly giving the president-elect a pass for now, giddy at the chance to repeal ObamaCare and tackle other legislative priorities with their new GOP-dominated government.
But not Amash.
The libertarian-minded, 36-year-old attorney, who backed his close friend Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for president, has taken to Twitter in the weeks following Trump’s stunning victory to jab at what he sees as the president-elect’s utter disregard for the Constitution.
Amash said he’s troubled by Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), saying he “supports indefinite detention of Americans w/o charge or trial, mass surveillance of law-abiding Americans, [and] civil asset forfeiture.”
The congressman suggested Trump’s business contracts with foreign governments around the world raised potential conflict of interest issues. And Amash torched Trump this week for threatening to lock up or strip the citizenship of those who burn the American flag.
“No president is allowed to burn the First Amendment,” Amash wrote in a tweet to his 80,000 followers.
But perhaps no issue has fired up Amash as much as Trump’s deal this week to provide an Indiana manufacturer $7 million in state tax breaks to prevent the company from shipping roughly 1,000 jobs to Mexico. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the Indiana governor, negotiated the agreement directly with executives from Carrier Corp., then flew to the heating and cooling giant’s Indianapolis headquarters to take a victory lap.
“It’s cronyism,” Amash told The Hill, echoing other conservative critics who have said such a deal amounts to the government picking winners and losers in violation of basic free-market principles.
“We have a Constitution. The president doesn’t just get to do anything he wants. He has to work within the constitutional framework, regardless of why people elected him.
“And deals like that hurt the people of Indiana; they don’t help the people of Indiana,” Amash added. “They redistribute resources and offer benefits to one company when another company down the road doesn’t get those same benefits. Sometimes competitors don’t get those same benefits.
“That’s just central planning. That was tried in the Soviet Union. It didn’t work very well.”
Hill GOP leaders and senior members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee seem uninterested in investigating any of Trump’s wide web of international business dealings, which Democrats warn pose obvious conflicts of interest problems for the new incoming GOP president.
Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has repeatedly made the point that Trump hasn’t even been sworn in yet, even as he’s vowed to continue to probe whether Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, mishandled classified information.
But Amash, who serves on the Oversight Committee, said the powerful panel should take a closer look at some of these issues.
“My job is to uphold the Constitution, follow the rule of law and represent all my constituents,” Amash said. “I think we should treat him the same way we treat any president. That means we need to make sure there are no conflicts of interest, just like we would do if Hillary Clinton had won.
“If we were going to look at the issues for Hillary Clinton, then we should also look at them for Donald Trump. I just think the same standard should apply.”