Amash storm hits Capitol Hill

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashSC Republican Mark Sanford considering primary challenge to Trump Democrats erupt over Trump attacks Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller MORE (R-Mich.) doubled down Monday on his case that President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA 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 MeadowsHouse Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy 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 BoehnerAmash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise A cautionary tale for Justin Amash from someone who knows Border funding bill highlights the problem of 'the Senate keyhole' 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 BoehnerAmash's critics miss the fact that partisanship is the enemy of compromise A cautionary tale for Justin Amash from someone who knows Border funding bill highlights the problem of 'the Senate keyhole' MORE’s ouster.

Amash said Boehner’s successor, Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump 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 ScaliseOcasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump Hillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings 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 SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordSC Republican Mark Sanford considering primary challenge to Trump Juan Williams: GOP discontent with Trump goes public The Memo: Can Trump run as an outsider? 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 JordanKellyanne Conway defies congressional subpoena at Trump's direction Social media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-Ohio), Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryConservatives ask Barr to lay out Trump's rationale for census question Pennsylvania state official launches Democratic challenge to GOP rep in district carried by Trump Lawmakers push to block pay raises for members of Congress MORE (R-Pa.), Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonThe 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Conservatives ask Barr to lay out Trump's rationale for census question Democrats push for tougher oversight on student loan market MORE (R-Ohio), Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarThe 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran Conservatives ask Barr to lay out Trump's rationale for census question House sends Trump border aid bill after Pelosi caves to pressure from moderates 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 PelosiHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Trump: I don't have a racist bone in my body Ocasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump 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.