Justin Amash, a 39-year-old Republican congressman from Michigan, is known as one of the most conservative members of the GOP. A former attorney, Amash is chair of the House Liberty Caucus, a group with a libertarian bent that is associated with the Tea Party movement.
But he is also gaining a reputation as a rare politician of conscience. During the testimony of Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen in February, he was perhaps the only Republican on the committee to ask real, substantive questions rather than toe the party line of undermining the entire premise of the hearing.
In a brutal Twitter thread on Saturday, Amash again took a stand against the partisan sycophancy his own party, almost all of which – apart, seemingly, from Amash and one or two rare others – have decided to abandon their principles to kowtow to president Trump.
“Here are my principal conclusions,” Amash wrote:
1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.
2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.
4. Few members of Congress have read the report.
These points – all undeniably true – mark the first time an elected Republican has publicly endorsed impeaching the president for his conduct.
Amash wasn’t finished. In a lengthy and damning thread, he detailed his thought process in coming to this bombshell conclusion.
“I offer these conclusions only after having read Mueller’s redacted report carefully and completely, having read or watched pertinent statements and testimony, and having discussed this matter with my staff, who thoroughly reviewed materials and provided me with further analysis,” Amash wrote. “In comparing Barr’s principal conclusions, congressional testimony, and other statements to Mueller’s report, it is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings.”
“Barr’s misrepresentations are significant but often subtle, frequently taking the form of sleight-of-hand qualifications or logical fallacies, which he hopes people will not notice.”
He continued: “Contrary to Barr’s portrayal, Mueller’s report reveals that President Trump engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment. In fact, Mueller’s report identifies multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice, and undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence.”
“We’ve witnessed members of Congress from both parties shift their views 180 degrees – on the importance of character, on the principles of obstruction of justice – depending on whether they’re discussing Bill Clinton or Donald Trump,” he went on, concluding: “America’s institutions depend on officials to uphold both the rules and spirit of our constitutional system even when to do so is personally inconvenient or yields a politically unfavorable outcome. Our Constitution is brilliant and awesome; it deserves a government to match it.”
No good deed goes unpunished, and just a day after his statement Amash is already facing a primary challenge from the GOP looking to unseat him in the upcoming election. Other senior Republican figures were quick to pile in on Amash: House Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy said he “just wants attention.”
As Jonathan Chait pointed out in New York magazine, it is possible that Amash is considering running for president in 2020 on the Libertarian Party ticket – something that would cause a big headache for Trump in the general election, as it is easy to see Amash siphoning a meaningful number of votes away from Republicans.
Regardless of his plan, it is a sign of how utterly craven the Republican party has become that it is so jarring to see a GOP politician make a stand on conscience. Credit where it is due: Libertarian party ambitions notwithstanding, this was still an act of rare courage, of putting party over country.
Taking such a stand is all the braver for Amash because of the hyper-partisan political environment that defines modern American politics. Whether this stand costs him his seat or not, in the end, when – if – the national nightmare of Trumpism finally comes to an end, Amash will be one of the few, if not the only, Republicans to emerge with their honour and dignity intact.