Press: Justin Amash breaks ranks with party

Press: Justin Amash breaks ranks with party
© Greg Nash

We could debate forever about who’s the most intelligent member of Congress. Or the wealthiest, the funniest or the nuttiest. But there’s no doubt who’s the most lonely: It’s Michigan’s Justin AmashJustin AmashJohn Oliver advocates Trump impeachment inquiry for 'high crimes and misdemeanors' John Oliver advocates Trump impeachment inquiry for 'high crimes and misdemeanors' The Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? MORE, who this week became the first House Republican to break ranks with his party and call for the impeachment of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE. 

He’s not only the loneliest, he’s also the most courageous. Amash has demonstrated that he’s not afraid of what, so far, none of his colleagues are willing to risk: the near-certainty of a primary challenge as the price for taking on Trump. 

Amash didn’t rush into impeachment. He reached that conclusion only after reading the entire 448-page Mueller report - which, he points out, is another way in which he stands alone. “Few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report,” he noted, “their minds were made up based on partisan affiliation.”

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His own objective reading of the report convinced Amash that Trump “engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment.” Whether the president actually committed a crime does not matter, argues Amash. Impeachment “simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt or otherwise dishonorable conduct.” All of which is spelled out in detail in the Mueller report. 

If Amash doesn’t spare Donald Trump, he doesn’t spare Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrForeign interference is a threat to the 2020 elections — presidential interference is, too Foreign interference is a threat to the 2020 elections — presidential interference is, too America's crisis of compassion is a Constitutional crisis, too MORE, either. He accuses Barr of “deliberately misrepresenting” the full report in the four-page summary he sent to Congress, using “sleight-of-hand qualifications or logical fallacies which he hopes people will not notice” to make the report seem more favorable to Trump than it actually is. 

Republican leaders, starting with Trump himself, were quick to dismiss Amash’s defection as meaningless. Which is true insofar as his statement will not alter the basic math of impeachment. Democrats already have enough votes in the House to impeach; it’s in the Senate where there aren’t enough Republican votes to convict. Besides, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCalifornia Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry California Democrat in swing district calls for Trump impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments MORE (D-Calif.) has urged Democrats not to rush into impeachment, but to focus, instead, on three priorities: their legislative agenda, oversight hearings and beating Trump in 2020. Justin Amash won’t change that. 

But his call for impeachment is still hugely significant. First, because Amash proves that what Donald Trump and spineless Republicans like Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? The Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran? Trump wishes 'Happy Father's Day to all,' including 'worst and most vicious critics' MORE (S.C.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Congressional Award — a beacon of hope  The case for congressional pay raises McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' MORE (Calif.) say about the conclusions of the Mueller report — “no collusion, no obstruction” — is a big fat lie. Mueller identifies many contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives and at least 10 documented cases of attempting to obstruct justice. Second, because Amash could inspire other disaffected Republicans to read the report and dare to come forward on their own. 

Ironically, for those who see echoes of former President Nixon’s fate in the debate over abuse of presidential powers by Donald Trump, Amash’s statement draws one more parallel. After Watergate, California’s Pete McCloskey became the first Republican member of Congress to step up and call for Nixon’s impeachment, after which several Republican senators went to the White House and convinced Nixon to step aside, rather than face impeachment in the House and conviction by the Senate. 

Given Trump’s stranglehold on today’s Republican Party, it’s unlikely Amash will have the same impact as McCloskey. Still, it’s refreshing to see one Republican member of Congress actually read the entire Mueller report. And one Republican member of Congress with the cojones to put country above political party. Will any other Republican dare step forward? 

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”