Justin Amash, who's called for Trump impeachment inquiry, says he's leaving Republican Party
Amash's previous comments have led to fallout from the U.S. president and wealthy Republican donors
Justin Amash of Michigan, one of the few members of the Republican Party to criticize U.S. President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr in the wake of the special counsel report on Russian interference into the election, said Thursday he's leaving the party.
The Michigan congressman announced his decision in an editorial published in the Washington Post that did not mention Trump by name.
Amash instead lamented "a mindset among the political class that loyalty to party is more important than serving the American people or protecting our governing institutions.
"With little genuine debate on policy happening in Congress, party leaders distract and divide the public by exploiting wedge issues and waging pointless messaging wars," Amash wrote, characterizing it as "partisan death spiral."
"These strategies fuel mistrust and anger, leading millions of people to take to social media to express contempt for their political opponents, with the media magnifying the most extreme voices."
Amash, 39, has represented Michigan's 3rd District since 2011. The area includes cities Grand Rapids and Battle Creek. The son of immigrants from the Middle East, he previously worked as a corporate lawyer.
In recent weeks, Amash has criticized the Republican reaction to the release of the redacted report written by special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller was tasked in 2017 with investigating any links and/or co-ordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump presidential campaign and any interference into the investigation itself.
Here are my principal conclusions:<br>1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.<br>2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.<br>3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.<br>4. Few members of Congress have read the report.—@justinamash
Amash initially backed Barr's four-page summary of the redacted report in late March, but after reading it in full, was accusing the attorney general of misleading the public. He criticized Barr and Trump in a series of social media posts over the past two months.
"Some of the president's actions were inherently corrupt. Other actions were corrupt — and therefore impeachable — because the president took them to serve his own interests.," he wrote on Twitter on May 28.
'A total lightweight'
Amash, in a separate Twitter post, wrote "no one disputes the appropriateness of investigating election interference, which included investigating contacts between the Trump campaign and people connected to the Russian government," which also puts him at odds with several in his party who've focused intently on the origins of the investigation, suggesting political bias was at play.
Barr has announced a probe into the origins of the investigation.
Mueller, under threat of subpoena, decided to give public testimony before a pair of House of Representative committees. His appearance is scheduled for July 17.
Amash was the lone Republican member of the legislative body to support impeachment hearings, a process that has the backing of some 80 House Democrats.
That expression gained support from Democratic presidential contenders John Delaney and Eric Swalwell — who wondered why more Republicans weren't following suit — but Amash's opinions did not escape the attention of Trump.
"Never a fan of @justinamash, a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy," the president tweeted on May 19.
He then accused Amash of never having read the Mueller report, a charge that has frequently been directed at Trump himself. Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, in an interview last week with CNN, would not say if Trump had read the full report. Sekulow called the report "convoluted" and "very hard to follow."
On the Fourth of July, Amash wrote he was "declaring his independence," arguing most Americans are not "rigidly partisan."
"I'm asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us," he said. "I'm asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it."
Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is “quitting” the Party. No Collusion, No Obstruction! Knew he couldn’t get the nomination to run again in the Great State of Michigan. Already being challenged for his seat. A total loser!—@realDonaldTrump
Trump quickly reacted, branding Amash "a total loser" on Twitter.
"Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is 'quitting' the Party," said Trump.
In addition to Trump, North Carolina congressman took Mark Walker weighed in: "The @HouseGOP never left @justinamash – we simply ran out of space for his ego."
Few vocal Republicans
Amash has won re-election in his district by double-digit margins over Democratic opponents, but it remains to be seen how constituents react to his move ahead of the 2020 race. He was confronted by some angry Trump supporters at a town hall in late May, while others told reporters they were surprised to find out some of the details of the Mueller report, as relayed by Amash.
A spokesperson for wealthy Republican backers, the DeVos family of Michigan, told the Detroit News in May that they would not contribute financially to Amash's future campaigns.
There are currently two Independent senators in Congress: Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Both caucus with the Democratic Party.
Amash has been perhaps the most willing Republican to publicly criticize Trump in the current session of Congress, though Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah has expressed displeasure at the president's full-throated support of Saudi Arabia even after the killing of Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, an opponent of Trump's during the 2016 Republican primaries, has become a presidential ally, even joking on Twitter after watching the Democratic candidates debate last week that "that whole Trump 3rd term thing is looking better and better."
In the previous session, Republican Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, and Bob Corker of Tennessee frequently admonished Trump. Flake and Corker chose not to run for re-election last year, while McCain died in August 2018 at age 81.