Amash storm hits Capitol Hill

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashDemocrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Michigan candidate's daughter urges people not to vote for him in viral tweet Can Trump break his 46 percent ceiling? MORE (R-Mich.) doubled down Monday on his case that President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' 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 MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Miami pauses reopenings as COVID-19 infections rise, schools nationally plot return Overnight Health Care: Trump downplaying of COVID-19 sparks new criticism of response Trump downplaying sparks new criticism of COVID-19 response 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 BoehnerLott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients Lobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Bush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT 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 BoehnerLott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients Lobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests Bush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT MORE’s ouster.

Amash said Boehner’s successor, Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won't support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here's why Lobbying world 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 ScaliseCheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up 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 SanfordCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama The Memo: Can the Never Trumpers succeed? 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 JordanHow conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up Democrats start cracking down on masks for lawmakers MORE (R-Ohio), Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryGOP-Trump fractures on masks open up Innovation in veteran posttraumatic care requires collaboration Democrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill MORE (R-Pa.), Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonGOP-Trump fractures on masks open up House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA MORE (R-Ohio), Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarHouse Republicans urge White House to support TSA giving travelers temperature checks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: DOJ whistleblower cites Trump tweets as impetus for California emissions probe | Democrats set July vote for major conservation bill, blaming Republicans for delay | Trump vows crackdown on monument vandalism Democrats set July vote for major conservation bill, blaming Republicans for delay 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 PelosiClash looms over next coronavirus relief bill Trump's WHO decision raises bipartisan concerns in House Five takeaways from PPP loan data 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.