White House aide calls for primary challenge against Rep. Amash

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WASHINGTON — A top White House advisor is calling for a primary challenger to step up to defeat West Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash who, as a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump.

But the tweet by White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. violated federal law that limits political activity by government employees, government ethics lawyers said.

Scavino, who also serves as a senior aide to the president, called Amash a "big liability" in a tweet posted Saturday.

Amash, who began serving his fourth House term in January, did not take long to respond to Scavino's tweet, posting "bring it on." It follows a tweet just days prior in which Amash called out the president, accusing him of succumbing to the "D.C. Establishment."

When later questioned about his criticism of the president this week, Amash called Trump a “childish bully,” equating the him to a fifth grader.

"It may allow a child to get his way, but that’s not how our government works," Amash told reporters.

Government ethics lawyers say Scavino's tweet violates federal law that limits political activity by government employees. The White House had no immediate comment. They said it didn't matter that Scavino tweeted from an account marked as "personal" and not from his official government Twitter account.

Daniel Jacobson, a White House lawyer under President Barack Obama, tweeted that White House staff "can't use an official or de facto govt Twitter acct (which this is) to call for defeat of a candidate. De facto means that if you tweet only about WH work from your account, it's an official account. Labeling 'personal' doesn't change that."

Richard Painter, who at one time was the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, called attention to the description beneath the photo on the account Scavino has designated as personal. It shows Scavino in the Oval Office, and he is identified as director of social media and a senior adviser to Trump.

"This is use of official position to influence an election," Painter tweeted. "Look at the photo and description underneath. Bush WH would have fired him."

Scavino also did not immediately respond to a request for comment through Twitter.

House Freedom Caucus members helped derail a vote last month on legislation long sought by Republicans to repeal and replace the health care law known as "Obamacare." Its members argued that the bill didn't go far enough to undo the law. Some moderate Republicans also objected to the legislation, but for different reasons.

About a week after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., pulled the bill from the House floor, Trump directed his Twitter fire on fellow Republicans.

"The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!" Trump said in Thursday tweet after the House Freedom Caucus members effectively derailed the Republican-led health care bill last month.

In follow-up tweets, the president singled out three Freedom Caucus members — Reps. Raul Labrador of Idaho, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and its chair, Mark Meadows of North Carolina. He said if they "would get on board we would have both great healthcare and massive tax cuts & reform."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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9 comments

  • steve thomas

    Amash is right. While Trump’s goals for the country may be fine, his method of getting there by being a backstreet brawler are creating internal problems for the party. If the Republicans had a commanding lead in both houses of Congress, such disagreements could be tolerated. But with the Democrats, unified by Schumer and Pelosi are in lockstep with their leaders, and will jump at every opportunity they see, and the adolescent behavior of the White House is willingly creating them. Get it together Trump, this isn’t “You’re Fired”.

  • Kevin Rahe

    I would wager that a majority of people who voted for Amash also voted for Trump. President Trump should not forget why he is in the White House.

  • George

    Amash, you have my vote and many others. We need you to stand up to this worthless POTUS who thinks he can bully anybody he wants. It is time for this worthless POTUS to GROW UP. Start thinking for the good of ALL people of the USA not just your buddies. Time to start the impeachment of this worthless POTUS.

  • Carol Howell

    Stay strong against this narcissistic man. You have my vote. You should be applauded for having the guts to stand up for what is right. Thank you.

  • learnedmylesson25

    All I know is Amash wants to be president.First he wants to become Tea Party/Freedom Fighter leader–then go on from there.I don’t think HE’S all there sometimes…lol.Seems very self centered.

    • Kevin Rahe

      If he was really self-centered, wouldn’t he be more concerned about offending the people who have more power than him than he would be about doing what’s right?

  • Jessie

    I voted for this clown, but not again. I will vote for a dem next time before giving my support to him.
    Just shut up and do your job. That’s all the voters ever wanted from you. We do not want ” any one guy” we pay you to work as a team.
    Just get over yourself, and do what we pay you to do.