Amash storm hits Capitol Hill

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashTrump allies assail impeachment on process while House Democrats promise open hearings soon Hoyer: We are going to move as fast 'as the facts and truth dictate' on open hearings Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote MORE (R-Mich.) doubled down Monday on his case that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE should be impeached for obstruction of justice, ensuring the spotlight will stay on the stunning attacks against his party’s leader all week.

GOP leaders and members of the conservative Freedom Caucus are distancing themselves from the 39-year-old lawmaker, who is now facing a new primary challenge. 

Because the fight centers on a political disagreement rather than any personal misconduct, Amash is unlikely to be kicked off his sole committee, the Oversight and Reform panel, leadership sources said.

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Freedom Caucus leaders also are unlikely to kick Amash out of the group he co-founded, though some speculated that his membership could be discussed this week. The Freedom Caucus also could vote to condemn Amash’s statements, sources said.

“Mr. Amash’s conclusions are poorly informed and fatally flawed,” Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsDemocrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay Key takeaways from first public impeachment hearing MORE (R-N.C.), the leader of the Freedom Caucus and a Trump confidant, told The Hill on Monday. 

“While his tweets will certainly be a topic of conversation for the caucus … I know of no other Freedom Caucus member who shares his view,” Meadows said.

Amash is likely to be ostracized in the Republican conference — though that may not bother him.

Since entering the House, he’s marched to the beat of his own drum, frequently frustrating GOP leaders tasked with keeping the troops in line.

Elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave, Amash is no stranger to controversy. He’s burnished a reputation for taking principled stands when it comes to fiscal and constitutional matters, even if it means bucking his own party leaders.

In 2012, then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFrom learning on his feet to policy director Is Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush MORE (R-Ohio) booted Amash off the Budget Committee after he voted against a government funding bill and a GOP budget he said did not cut enough spending. Three years later, Amash co-founded the Freedom Caucus and helped orchestrate BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFrom learning on his feet to policy director Is Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush MORE’s ouster.

Amash said Boehner’s successor, Paul RyanPaul Davis Ryan Retirees should say 'no thanks' to Romney's Social Security plan California Governor Newsom and family dress as 2020 Democrats for Halloween DC's liaison to rock 'n' roll MORE (R-Wis.), was an even worse Speaker than Boehner, and called for him to step down in 2017.

“Anyone who knows Justin’s background knows he sometimes goes a different route than the rest of the Republicans in our conference, and this is clearly one of those cases,” Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseLive updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Bottom Line Trump allies assail impeachment on process while House Democrats promise open hearings soon MORE (R-La.) said on Fox News this week. “You don’t see anyone agreeing with him, and I certainly disagree with that take.”

Amash’s relationship with the Freedom Caucus had already been deteriorating. He threatened to quit the group last year after complaining that its leaders had failed to defend one of its own, then-Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordMichigan GOP attempting to have Trump be only Republican candidate on ballot Weld files to run in GOP presidential primary in New Hampshire Sanford: 'It carries real weight' to speak against Trump 'while in office' MORE (R-S.C.), against attacks from Trump. Sanford was ousted in a primary, and Amash eventually stayed put.

Other questions center on the Constitution-focused House Liberty Caucus that was founded and is chaired by Amash. Freedom Caucus members — including Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanGraham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial Democrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay MORE (R-Ohio), Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryHouse Republicans prepare for public impeachment proceedings with mock hearing Taylor testimony shows concern about Giuliani influence, 'irregular' foreign policy channel House to hold public impeachment hearings next week MORE (R-Pa.), Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonFinancial sector's work on SAFE Banking Act shows together, everyone achieves more Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess GOP leaders struggle to contain conservative anger over budget deal MORE (R-Ohio), Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarGosar leaves message in tweets: 'Epstein didn't kill himself' Omar comes under scrutiny for 'present' vote on Armenian genocide House passes bill to prohibit mining near Grand Canyon MORE (R-Ariz.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) — are also members of the Liberty group and could possibly drop out.

“Justin’s a friend, but Justin’s wrong on this, clearly. And the way he did this was wrong as well,” Biggs told Fox News on Monday, adding that he took issue with Amash surmising that most of his colleagues had not read the full Mueller report.

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“We’ve all read the report, so I was kinda floored by Justin’s conclusions. I disagree with him wholeheartedly on this.”

A pro-Trump Michigan Republican, state Rep. Jim Lower, said Monday that he’ll launch a primary challenge against Amash for his House seat in 2020. And more Republicans could join the primary in the coming weeks and months.

Chris Pack, a spokesman for the House GOP’s official campaign arm, said the National Republican Congressional Committee does not take sides in primary races. But the Michigan GOP seems poised to line up behind a challenger.

"While President @realDonaldTrump’s leadership has led to the strongest economy in a generation, Justin Amash has opposed his ‘America First’ agenda every step of the way,” Michigan GOP Chairwoman Laura Cox tweeted on Saturday.

 

 

Amash fended off a primary challenge in 2014. After Amash repeatedly criticized Trump during the 2016 campaign and after his election, White House aide Dan Scavino called on the “#TrumpTrain” to take out Amash in a primary. He won a fifth term in the House anyway last fall.

Some Libertarians and NeverTrumpers are trying to draft Amash to launch a third-party challenge against Trump in 2020 — something he hasn’t closed the door on.

Amash seems unfazed by all the criticism. 

In the series of tweets on Monday, he rebutted GOP colleagues like Meadows and Biggs who have argued Trump could not have committed obstruction of justice because Mueller did not conclude the president engaged in the underlying crime of conspiracy with Russia.

“They say there were no underlying crimes,” Amash tweeted. “In fact, there were many crimes revealed by the investigation, some of which were charged, and some of which were not but are nonetheless described in Mueller’s report.”

The criticism of Amash has been stunning coming from fellow Republicans, even taking into consideration Amash’s reputation as a rabble-rouser.

Leaders of his conference described him publicly as a backbencher and publicity hound with few legislative accomplishments to his name. 

On Fox News, GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), a close Trump ally, berated Amash as someone who's aligned with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Speaker Pelosi, it's time to throw American innovators a lifeline Why Americans must tune in to the Trump impeachment hearings MORE (D-Calif.) and “just looking for attention,” while GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) called out Amash for being consistently wrong.

“As he is on so many other issues, Justin Amash is wrong here. Our conference stands with the president and the American people in our commitment to the facts, the rule of law, and getting the work done we were elected to do,” Cheney said in a statement to The Hill. “We are not going to feed into Democrats’ partisan efforts to undermine this Administration.”

--Updated Tuesday, 11:21 a.m.