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 AmashLawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Sanford headed to New Hampshire amid talk of challenge to Trump MORE, who this week became the first House Republican to break ranks with his party and call for the impeachment of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems 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 BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries Mueller report fades from political conversation Barr removes prisons chief after Epstein death 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 PelosiJohnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Mueller report fades from political conversation Five key players in Trump's trade battles 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 GrahamTwo-thirds of Republicans support 'red flag' gun laws: NPR poll Red flag laws won't stop mass shootings — ending gun-free zones will Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (S.C.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' 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.”