Trump supporters protest Amash in Grand Rapids

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Protest against Congressman Justin Amash in Grand Rapids, June 14, 2019

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Twp.) is the lone Republican calling for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump — and that’s enough for many Michigan Republicans to try to boot him from office.

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Pro-Trump signs at an anti-Justin Amash rally in Grand Rapids, June 14, 2019

About 200 Trump backers around the state gathered outside the West Michigan congressman’s downtown Grand Rapids office on Friday to “squash Amash,” as the rally was titled.

Amash, who identifies as a libertarian, has become a lightning rod since he last month formally called for Trump’s impeachment after finishing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

It’s won him accolades from Democrats and a heaping of abuse from within his own party, as well as a few announced primary challengers, including state Rep. James Lower (R-Greenville).

Many Republicans have claimed Amash now largely votes with liberals. Amash breaks with his party more frequently than any other Republican, but still votes with it the majority of the time.

Amash goes to war with GOP

But to Jim Riley, a Norton Shores resident who attended Friday’s rally, that’s not enough.

“Amash is a Republican, but he’s become the darling of Democrats,” Riley said, before acknowledging that he has not read the Mueller report.

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Jim Riley at a protest against Congressman Justin Amash in Grand Rapids, June 14, 2019

To Riley, Amash’s recommendation that people read the 448-page report is unrealistic. He insisted there’s a lack of credible evidence that Trump colluded with Russia or sought to obstruct justice.

Meshawn Maddock, co-founder of the group Michigan Trump Republicans that organized the event, told the Advance that people demanded the rally as a way to share with Trump their unhappiness with Amash.

Maddock said she was once an Amash supporter, and recalled that her and her husband — state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) — had previously donated to the congressman now in his fifth term, although they don’t live in his district.

That support is over, according to Meshawn Maddock.

“Amash was the bright, shining hope of the Republican Party, but he’s been an epic disaster, an utter failure,” Maddock said. “If President Trump were here he’d say, ‘Amash, you’re fired.’”

Unpopular opinion? Justin Amash doesn’t care.

Amash’s stance on impeachment has not only left him alone in his party, but it’s led to his resignation from the Tea Party-associated Freedom Caucus that he helped found.

Lower, the state legislator challenging Amash for his seat, attended Friday’s rally. In a brief interview, he said that the crowd gathered along Michigan Street on Grand Rapids’ so-called “Medical Mile” proved there’s strong support for Amash’s ouster.

Rep. Jim Lower | Nick Maness

There’s been talk that Trump could endorse an Amash challenger. Lower said he’s been in contact with people in Trump’s orbit, but wouldn’t say more about those conversations.

“We’re talking with them … I can’t go into any details,” he said.

Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., taunted the fifth-term congressman with a tweet on Thursday morning.

Amash quickly fired back with the verbatim language Trump Jr. used in an email to Russians offering information on Hillary Clinton, according to the Mueller report: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

Amash, who beat back a strong primary challenger in 2014, appears unfazed.

“The president’s not popular in my district, and it hasn’t been close in terms of how well I’ve done compared to how well he’s done,” Amash told the Advance earlier this week.

While the congressman isn’t backing down in the face of a primary, there’s another wild card at play: Amash has repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility that he might run for president as a Libertarian, creating another challenge for Trump in Michigan, a must-win state where his favorables have steadily declined.

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Patty Malowney, a West Michigan Libertarian who unsuccessfully challenged state Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming) in 2018, was one of a handful of steadfast Amash supporters in attendance.

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Patty Malowney, a West Michigan Libertarian and Justin Amash supporter, June 14, 2019 | Nick Manes

In a stance similar to the congressman they came to support, they were huddled off away from the larger rally, holding, “Don’t tread on me” Tea Party flags and pro-Amash signs.

Malowney said she wants Amash “to get off the fence and run for president,” noting that she believes there’s significant support in West Michigan for an independent-minded candidate.

“It could be very interesting because there are a lot of libertarian-leaning people here in West Michigan,” Malowney said. “There are a lot of people with [Amash’s] mindset. They may vote Republican, but they’re libertarian. We would love to see him run, and Michigan would be the most interesting place to watch it play out.”

Nick Manes
Nick Manes covers 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. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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