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Trump critic Justin Amash quits Republican Party

(CNN/FOX 17) -- Rep. Justin Amash, the only congressional Republican who publicly argues that President Donald Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct, announced Thursday he is quitting the GOP.

"Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party," Amash wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday morning. "No matter your circumstance, I'm asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I'm asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it."

At the Independence Day parade in Cascade Township, Amash said he's seen the harm partisan politics have caused in Washington.

“It’s Independence Day, and I’ve been in party politics for a while now, and I’ve seen the corrosive effects it has on people in Washington, on people in Lansing," he said. "And I thought it was important to stand up and set an example for people and say ‘we’ve had enough of the party politics.'"

“We need people to go to Washington, go to Lansing, be principled, represent everyone in the community, not just one political party or one person.”

Amash didn't mention the President by name in his op-ed, but his decision to abandon the party comes after months of escalating criticism not just of the President but of his own colleagues for their failure to hold Trump to account, specifically for the actions detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the 2016 election and its aftermath.

In May, the five-term Michigan representative became the first sitting Republican lawmaker to join Democratic calls for an impeachment inquiry. He drew scorn from GOP leaders and Trump — Amash has "been a loser for a long time," the President responded — when he wrote in a series of tweets that, after reading Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, he believed Attorney General William Barr intentionally misrepresented Mueller's findings and Trump engaged in obstruction of justice.

Amash, a staunch Libertarian, litigated the failures of the Republican Party, Congress and the American political system as a whole in his Post op-ed.

"The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family," he wrote. "In recent years, though, I've become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions."

He also pointed to George Washington's farewell address, in which the first US President warned Americans of the dangers of partisanship.

"True to Washington's fears, Americans have allowed government officials, under assertions of expediency and party unity, to ignore the most basic tenets of our constitutional order: separation of powers, federalism and the rule of law," Amash said. "The result has been the consolidation of political power and the near disintegration of representative democracy."

SPECULATION ABOUT A 2020 CHALLENGE

Amash's break with his party adds fuel to growing speculation that he will seek the Libertarian Party nomination and launch a long-shot bid for president in 2020. The op-ed comes as Trump is embarking on his 2020 reelection campaign and it solidifies Amash's role as a leading anti-Trump conservative, representing a group that in 2016 coalesced under a loose "Never Trump" banner.

Over the past several months, Amash has repeatedly refused to rule out a potential presidential bid. Such a campaign would reshape the presidential election: Amash has a national following among Libertarians, and he could draw support from younger, conservative voters who are uncomfortable with Trump.

He told CNN in March that he never stops thinking about such possibilities "because there is a big problem with the current two-party system we have, and someone has to shake it up."

"Now, is it possible for anyone to shake it up and make a difference?" he asked at the time. "I don't know."

The move also upends the state of play in Michigan's 3rd District, where several Republican candidates have announced their plans to challenge him for his current congressional seat in the GOP primary.

As an independent, Amash wouldn't have to compete in the primary to run in the general election, although during a recent town hall in Grand Rapids, he told constituents it is "very difficult" to run as an independent in Michigan, due to straight-ticket voting and existing requirements for third-party candidates to get on the ballot.

Amash didn't address his future plans, though he pointedly called for readers to reject both parties and expressed his belief that the majority of Americans don't feel adequately represented by Republicans or Democrats.

"Most Americans are not rigidly partisan and do not feel well represented by either of the two major parties," he said. "Preserving liberty means telling the Republican Party and the Democratic Party that we'll no longer let them play their partisan game at our expense."

ODD MAN OUT

Amash has always been the odd man out among his Republican peers. He has long been known for an unusual willingness to split with the party line on controversial issues including federal surveillance powers, foreign policy and congressional procedure. That divide only widened in the Trump era.

In June, Amash stepped down from the House Freedom Caucus, a group of roughly three dozen hardline conservatives who have become some of the President's loudest defenders over the past two years.

"I have the highest regard for them and they're my close friends," Amash told CNN shortly after he informed the HFC board of his decision. "I didn't want to be a further distraction for the group."

Amash, a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, stopped attending weekly meetings long before he formally cut ties, after clashing with members for months over differing priorities. Leading up to the 2018 election, he urged his colleagues to turn back from the path they were going down, delivering impassioned speeches about how the group was "losing sight of our purpose and our principles."

It didn't help Amash this year that Reps. Mark Sanford and Raul Labrador, his closest allies in the fight for the Freedom Caucus' soul, were no longer in Congress.

"In some sense you've delegitimized objections to the President," Amash told CNN of the group's loyalty to Trump in March. "You've built up such credibility for him that you just can't challenge him anymore."

WORKING WITH DEMOCRATS

During the 116th Congress, Amash has regularly sided with Democrats on the House Oversight Committee amid investigations into the White House, even as Republicans on the panel have stuck firmly to playing defense for the President.

He recently voted to authorize a subpoena for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway after she refused to testify about her alleged violations of the Hatch Act, and he made headlines in February when he asked former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen questions designed to uncover potential wrongdoing by Trump during his appearance before the committee.

Amash was also the only Republican to cosponsor the House Democratic resolution earlier this year disapproving of Trump's use of emergency powers to seize funds from the Defense Department for the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

He has said moving forward with an impeachment inquiry would be appropriate but has not signed onto any existing impeachment resolutions, noting the decision ultimately falls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has been reluctant to back impeachment, arguing it would hurt Democrats in the upcoming election.

"Clearly, things that violate the public trust are impeachable," Amash said to applause during the Grand Rapids town hall. "I think it's really important that we do our job as Congress. That we would not allow misconduct to go undeterred."

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24 comments

  • Iamct01

    He found out that gop sides with father figures that know best regardless over the laws of the flag. They are masters of the but he is still a good provider story.

    • brianc36

      Ya he has a conscience. He’s worried about the family business which sales imported tools from China. Amazing, Meijer now carries them. I wonder how he pulled that off.

  • steve

    Many voters would like to see a third party, true. But, before they start pushing for another party they need to ask themselves one question. With so many voters fed up with a Congress that is pulling in two directions and accomplishing very little, what’s going to happen down the road when they’re pulling in three?

  • Liz

    Amash has ruined any chance of a political career. He lost my vote. The report says no collusion. There is no evidence to support impeachment. The democratic party needs to quit trying to change the rules and put their differences aside and get the job done.

  • Rj

    Justin ran on a tea party platform just like flake and many others who called themselves conservatives or republicans, Then it soon became apparent what they truly are. We have had so many of these frauds, if people do just a little homework it’s easy to figure out why we now have a President who not to long ago was a NY liberal. Justin’s Palestinian bloodline and his financial connections to China will always put himself before us. He really is quitting because he now knows he can’t and won’t win re-election.

    • Bob Holderbaum

      Subject: Re-election. If he were to stay in the race as a Republican, and there are three announced opponents, he might well win the primary. I’m reading in these feedback sessions (including to his announcement on Facebook) that there IS a host of people who support Justin on his principle positions and his transparency with his district. As to the China/Palestinian background issues, that writer ASSUMES (quite falsely, I think) that Amash votes follow SELF interest. I say, “hogwash.” I don’t recall the annual deficit or the national debt coming up once in the Dem debates last week. More and more, the Republicans only give the subject lip service. Run again, Justin! Between Justin and Rand Paul, plus the tenacity of former Rep. Trey Gowdy and current Rep. Jim Jordan, what I’ll call “principles of freedom” need all the support and strengthening they can receive. On issues like NSA spying on the citizenry, again Justin was right there to help people continue to put off the yoke of big government. More than we can say for probably 98 percent of the Republican party.

  • Kevin Rahe

    I agree with Amash’s assessment of the evils caused by an essentially two-party system, as I’ve considered myself a “party pooper” when it comes to the political variety for some time. I am also a principled person and admire Amash for his principles, though I think one needs to be more willing to compromise in some cases in order to move our country in the right direction than he has been. It will be interesting to see where this all leads.

  • The Conservative

    I hope the rest of the spineless fake politicians follow him! We can keep moving our great nation forward. 104 times the stock market has set a record, military stronger than ever, less people on food stamps, lowest unemployment rates across-the-board for all measurable standards, fixing our boarders and demonstrating we are a powerful nation that will take no B.S from anyone! God bless our President!!!

  • Matt

    Glad to see him quite, It’s a win for libertarians and individuals. The GOP loves taxes and centralization as much as the left. At least the left doesn’t lie when they say they are coming after your money.

  • stop the madness

    What a joke. He left the GOP a long time ago. The only reason he has been elected is because people don’t want any Democrat in office. I hope he doesn’t hold his breath on getting relected much less getting enough support to run for president. LOL

  • BS

    Amash bought the democrats lies hook, line and sinker. Believing the President was guilty of obstruction, when IG Mueller said he received all the funding and all the information requested to complete his investigation is beyond the pale. Amash must also think you are guilty until proven innocent.

    Amash should immediately resign – Good Riddance.

  • Wings

    A vote for Amash is a victory for the USA
    The only one to stand up to the idiot(#45)
    Go Justin, bring others with you

  • C

    I wonder if he’ll run for President as an independent in 2020 much like Ross Perot did in 1992. There are a lot of people, including me, that believe Perot handed the election to Bill Clinton. One can only guess how many of the 19 million votes Perot received came from Bush, but interviews after to election suggests a lot, and definitely a sizable majority. I don’t know how many votes Amash would take from Trump, but each vote would be the same as a vote for the Democrat, and that’s frightening.

  • lml25

    Amash is a RINO among RINOs.Trump needs to start a MAGA party– Republicans never supported him–because he’s an outsider,so he needs people to run for office unbeholdened to the GOP party machine.McCain was a RINO,so was the Wisconsin majority leader who quit last year.Many more.

  • Sickofitall

    Now that you have officially quit the GOP Justin, maybe now would be a good time for you to resign. You were elected by the people of your district (the majority being republican) to represent the Republican values.
    I would rather have no representation than to have you continue your term.
    Time for you to leave now Justin!

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