Amash wants Pelosi to stop hesitating and start impeachment hearings

Justin Amash | Gage Skidmore via >Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

U.S. Rep Justin Amash (R-Cascade Twp.) held a two-hour town hall on Tuesday at his alma mater, where he defended his career-long habit of making enemies in his own camp amid a torrent of criticism from fellow Republicans over his calls for President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash at a town hall, May 28, 2019 | Nick Manes

Amash spoke before more than 500 constituents at Grand Rapids Christian High School, where he was valedictorian. The forum was held in the DeVos Center for Arts and Worship named for the billionaire West Michigan family that had been major donors to Amash’s campaigns, but reportedly vowed last week to financially cut him off.

He has frequently clashed with his fellow Republicans during the Trump era and last week was condemned for his impeachment comments by the Freedom Caucus, which he co-founded.

The town hall also drew a number of national reporters as buzz continues to build that Amash could run for president as a Libertarian in 2020, something with which he’s flirted before.

Amash said that Trump’s actions, as outlined in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recently published report on Russian election interference “reflect incredible dishonesty.”

Unpopular opinion? Justin Amash doesn’t care.

Amash, who’s an attorney, argued to a mostly receptive crowd that if left unchecked, Trump’s behavior as described in the report would set a dangerous precedent for future presidents.

“We should expect the president to uphold the law and to have the highest standard,” Amash said to significant applause. “More than anyone in the government, we need the president to be ethical and of moral character, and to do the right thing. The pattern we find in the Mueller report is of someone who does not meet that standard.”

Given that pattern, Amash argued that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should begin impeachment proceedings — something she’s been hesitant to do.

“I do think it’s appropriate for the speaker to proceed with an inquiry for hearings and other things. The speaker will make that determination,” Amash said.

“I think she’s very nervous about some of the Democrats in tougher districts and she’s trying to maintain the majority, so she’s trying to play it both ways,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what we should do under our Constitution. We have a responsibility to uphold the law and to prevent government abuse.”

The town hall was Amash’s first since March, and the first since the fifth-term congressman became the lone Republican member of Congress to call for impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Rep. Jim Lower | Nick Maness

Since calling for impeachment earlier this month, Amash has gained at least two primary challengers, state Rep. Jim Lower (R-Greenville) and Tom Norton, a former village trustee for Sand Lake, north of Grand Rapids.

Lower attended the event and told the Advance in an interview that he doesn’t believe the crowd reflected the district’s primary voters who he believes will support a more pro-Trump Republican. The state House member told the Washington Post in a story Tuesday that he had not read the Mueller report.

When asked whether Amash should be scared of losing his congressional seat, which he’s held since 2011, Lower said, “He should be.

“The voters are very angry about his stance [on impeachment], and they support the president, and they’re going to support our campaign.”

About 500 attended U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s town hall, May 28, 2019 | Nick Manes

Amash, for his part, appears to have no such concern, noting during the town hall that he’s out-performed Trump in terms of vote percentage in the past and that he believes he’ll continue to do so.

The vast majority of attendees offered support for Amash’s impeachment calls, with many calling him “courageous.” Only three constituents stood up to express their anger with the congressman.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash at a town hall, May 28, 2019 | Nick Manes

Asked by a constituent to respond to accusations, including by Trump himself, that his calls for impeachment proceedings are simply a means of boosting his media profile in advance of a potential Libertarian presidential run, Amash dismissed the notion.

“If I were trying to roll out something like that, this is not how I would do it,” Amash said, again refusing to rule out a potential third-party Libertarian candidacy.

Just hours before the town hall meeting, Amash tweeted his belief that Attorney General William Barr “deliberately misrepresented” key parts of the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election, in advance of its release in redacted form last month.

And while Amash continues to double down on his calls for impeachment proceedings against Trump, his fellow Republican members of Michigan’s congressional delegation aren’t exactly following suit.

“[Amash] is certainly entitled to his opinion … He’s taking a tough stand, that’s for sure, within the Republican party,” U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) said Tuesday morning while speaking on the WHTC radio station.

Fred Upton

“Many of my folks are telling me, and I agree, let’s turn the page and address the issues with the deficit, the Great Lakes, Iran, and all these other things,” Upton continued.

“This has taken a lot of time, we’ve spent tens of millions of dollars. It would require a two-thirds vote, impeachment is not going to happen. Let’s focus on getting things done over the next couple of months as we close in on the next fiscal year.”

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), however, praised Amash over the weekend, calling him “courageous” on Sunday’s episode of “Meet the Press.”

While Amash continues to garner accolades and a newfound affection among some on the left, he continues to stress that a commitment to limited government and upholding his strict interpretation of the Constitution are his core motivators in Congress.

That, he told a constituent wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, puts him in direct contrast with Trump — and many of his supporters. There weren’t many of them in Tuesday’s crowd, which was not only out of step with the Republican mainstream in its affinity for Amash, but in its enthusiasm for old-school economic conservatism.

Amash had a back-and-forth with the outspoken Trump supporter, before the congressman had a mic-drop moment for the fiscally conservative crowd.

“President Trump is not at all for limited government,” he said.

Nick Manes
Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.


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