Amash criticizes Trump, Pelosi in first Sunday show appearance since leaving GOP

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashThe Memo: Fears of violence grow amid Trump race storm Top Missouri newspaper condemns GOP's 'shameful silence' on Trump's 'racism' Amash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' MORE (Mich.) doubled down on both his support for impeaching President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE and his decision to leave the Republican party on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.

Amash, who had previously been the only Republican member of Congress to support impeachment proceedings, told CNN’s Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch The Memo: Fears of violence grow amid Trump race storm Jake Tapper on Trump's rhetoric: 'No more dog whistles, just naked racism' MORE on Sunday that senior officials have privately thanked him for his public stance. 


"When I was discussing impeachment, I had fellow colleagues and other Republicans, high-level officials, contacting me, saying, 'Thank you for what you’re doing,'" Amash said. "So there are lots of Republicans out there who are saying these things privately, but they're not saying it publicly, and I think that’s a problem for our country."

Amash also declined again to rule out a third-party presidential run.

"I still wouldn't rule anything like that out. I believe that I have to use my skills, my public influence, where it serves the country best. And I believe I have to defend the Constitution in whichever way works best," he said.

Trump, he added, "thinks people owe loyalty to him, but people are elected to Congress with an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not an oath to support and defend one person, the president who happens to be from your own party."

Amash criticized Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump telling aides to look at potential spending cuts if he wins reelection: report Budget talks between White House, Pelosi spill into weekend Trump says he won't watch Mueller testimony MORE (D-Calif.) for her continued hard line against pursuing impeachment.

"From a principled, moral position, she is making a mistake. From a strategic position, she is making a mistake," Amash said.

"I do believe there's a strong case. I believe she believes there is a strong case, and if so, she should move forward," he added.

The four-term lawmaker has said he arrived at his position on impeachment after reading former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s report, in which which Mueller determined he could not exonerate Trump on the question of obstruction of justice but did not find sufficient evidence the Trump campaign coordinated or conspired with the Russian government on election interference.

Amash told Tapper the majority of Americans likely have not read the report and are counting on their elected representatives to do so, but he added that he believes less than 15 percent of Congress has read it.

If all Congressional Republicans read the report, Amash said, "I think a large number of them would reach the same conclusion. There are some that who would reach different conclusions."

The Sunday appearance followed a Thursday op-ed by Amash in The Washington Post in which he announced his departure from the GOP.

"Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party," Amash wrote on the Fourth of July. "No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it."

His stance on impeachment has resulted in sharp backlash from his Republican colleagues and supporters of the president. At his first town hall since coming out in favor of impeachment, he received a standing ovation but also took a question from a constituent in a "MAGA" hat who said, "I can’t tell you how disappointed I am."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants History in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week EU official in Canada says he feels 'at home' there because no one was shouting 'send him back' MORE (R-Calif.) said in May that Amash was "out of step with this conference” and “out of step with America."

"You know, people get elected by going back and talking to the constituents of how they vote on the floor, a reflection of within their own district," he said at a press conference. "I think when it comes to actions, I think the constituents will have the final say."

Amash attracted a primary challenger almost immediately after announcing his support for impeachment. Michigan state Rep. Jim Lower entered the race touting his support for Trump and opposition to impeachment, and Trump is reportedly considering publicly backing him.

"If they were to get involved early I think it would help make sure that it was just me versus Amash in the August primary — and if that’s the case we’re definitely going to win," Lower told Politico in June.

Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump campaign selling branded plastic straws as alternative to 'liberal paper straws' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Trump set to host controversial social media summit MORE has also hinted he will campaign with Lower, with Amash countering, “If it’s what you say I love it, especially later in the summer,” a reference to an email the president’s eldest son sent while planning a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.