Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash thinks President Donald Trump’s conduct in office is impeachable, that Attorney General William Barr knowingly misled the public about the conclusions in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, and that his Republican colleagues in Congress are turning a blind eye to it all.
“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,” Amash tweeted in a lengthy thread Saturday, becoming the first and only congressional Republican to argue that the FBI investigation into Trump’s campaign and its alleged connection to Russian officials established grounds for impeachment. While several prominent Democrats have also called for impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly sidestepped the issue, instead calling for more investigations.
Amash sits at a nexus in the Republican Party. He’s a libertarian who is known for breaking from the party line, and has partnered with Democrats in the past. But he is also in the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 40-or-so of Congress’s most conservative members, almost all of whom have been unwavering defenders of Trump. He sits on the House Oversight Committee — the main House watchdog for the executive branch — which (under its Democratic leadership) is currently embroiled in several investigations into the Trump administration. So far the Republicans on that committee, a group which includes several Freedom Caucus members, have worked hard to resist checks on Trump.
Amash said he reached his conclusions after reading the entirety of Mueller’s 448-page redacted report, which was made public in mid-April. The report outlined 10 instances investigated by the special counsel in which Trump may have attempted to interfere with the investigation, as well as numerous connections the Trump campaign had with foreign actors. But Mueller and his team did not actually come to a conclusion on the issue of obstruction of justice. It was Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who said the evidence in the report was “not sufficient to establish” obstruction in their summary of Mueller’s work. Barr also repeated the phrase “no collusion” several times during a press conference about the report that he held before the report was made public.
The attorney general’s statements and report summary have been repeatedly cited by Republicans in Congress who have stood united in their messaging that Mueller’s work exonerated Trump. Amash, however, is now breaking from the pack, not only in his indictment of Trump, but in perhaps a more damning indictment of his colleagues, who he says are playing a partisan game that’s crumbling the rule of law.
Amash’s full statement is not only an indictment of Trump, but of Republicans in Congress
Amash said he did what most of his colleagues in Congress didn’t do — he read the Mueller report. And after reading it, he reached the conclusion that his colleagues in the Republican Party have been trying to undermine: that Trump’s conduct was impeachable.
Here’s what Amash wrote in full:
Here are my principal conclusions:
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.
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.
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.
Under our Constitution, the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” While “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is not defined, the context implies conduct that violates the public trust.
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.
Impeachment, which is a special form of indictment, does not even require probable cause that a crime (e.g., obstruction of justice) has been committed; it simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.
While impeachment should be undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances, the risk we face in an environment of extreme partisanship is not that Congress will employ it as a remedy too often but rather that Congress will employ it so rarely that it cannot deter misconduct.
Our system of checks and balances relies on each branch’s jealously guarding its powers and upholding its duties under our Constitution. When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law—the foundation of liberty—crumbles.
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.
Few members of Congress even read Mueller’s report; their minds were made up based on partisan affiliation—and it showed, with representatives and senators from both parties issuing definitive statements on the 448-page report’s conclusions within just hours of its release.
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.
Core to Amash’s statement is the reality that Barr’s summary of the Mueller report has been key to how Republicans in Congress have crafted their message around the investigation. Even as the report showed damning evidence of obstruction, the attorney general used language that made it easy for Republicans in general to chalk up this scandal to everything from a nothingburger to a partisan “witch hunt.”
And congressional Republicans, who have downplayed every twist and turn of this investigation, were quick to echo that message. Amash is calling out his Republican colleagues for abdicating their oversight role.
Amash has broken from the pack before
Amash is hardly representative of the Republican Party in Congress as a whole. On the contrary, he’s built a reputation of sticking to his principles, regardless of how desperately his leadership needs his vote.
Trump referred to this reputation in his criticism of Amash’s takeaways from the Mueller report, tweeting that the representative was “a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands” and that he “opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy.”
Amash has been consistent in how he has dealt with the Russia investigation. He was one of the first Republicans to acknowledge the possibility of impeachment in May 2017, after former FBI Director James Comey released a memo indicating that Trump urged the FBI to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
He has been outspoken on the need to investigate Russia’s alleged ties to the Trump campaign and administration. In December 2016 he penned a letter with the late Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, asking former President Barack Obama for a classified briefing on any evidence that Russia tampered with the 2016 elections. After Trump abruptly fired Comey, Jones and Amash again joined the ranks of Democrats calling for an independent investigation into Russia’s possible ties to the Trump administration.
Minnesota Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who has called for Trump’s impeachment since taking office in January, responded to Amash’s comments, asking him to join an impeachment investigation resolution. Pelosi has repeatedly pushed back on Democrats’ impeachment efforts, saying “we’re not there yet” in late April.
Congressional Republicans, however, haven’t been persuaded by Amash’s positions in the past. Republicans have wanted this whole thing to be over from the moment it started.
Current Republican thinking on the Mueller report is best summed up in the words of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy: “It’s time to move on.”