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A Tea Party Republican Has a Stronger Impeachment Stance Than Nancy Pelosi

Jay Willis
Justin Amash is making the House Democratic leadership look unprincipled.

Over the weekend, Michigan's Justin Amash became the latest member of Congress to state publicly what any reasonable reader of special counsel Robert Mueller's report would conclude: Donald Trump engaged in impeachable conduct, and the legislature has a constitutional duty to hold him accountable. Unlike every other lawmaker who has made such an assertion thus far, however, Amash is a Tea Party Republican—and, in some strange turn of events, his position is more audacious than that of House Democratic leadership.

"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," Amash wrote in a series of tweets on Saturday. Anyone other than a sitting president, he argued, would have already been indicted on obstruction of justice charges based on Mueller's evidence, and the American system of checks and balances only functions if each branch upholds their end of the bargain. "Our Constitution is brilliant and awesome; it deserves a government to match it." Visitors to the Capitol on Tuesday morning were treated to the sight of Amash lecturing a tour group about the merits of impeaching his own party's leader posthaste.

Amash is a quirky libertarian who helped found the far-right House Freedom Caucus in 2010 and explains every vote he takes on Facebook—the sort of Republican who personally opposes abortion but also believes legislation that defunds Planned Parenthood is unconstitutional. Since Trump's election, Amash has so frequently criticized the president and the president's policies—the Muslim ban and the national emergency declaration, among many others—that in 2017, White House aide Dan Scavino publicly urged Amash's constituents to defeat him in the primary, calling him "a big liability" to Trump's agenda. The incumbent nonetheless won a fifth term in 2018 by more than 11 points.

While a single libertarian breaking with his party does not constitute a broad, bipartisan consensus, Amash's sustained public statements on impeachment has put the Democratic leadership's position into sharp relief. In an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Mika Brzezinski asked House speaker Nancy Pelosi: "So, doesn't it put more pressure on you that a conservative Republican says the threshold for impeachment has been met?" When Pelosi answered in the negative, Brzezinski responded with a disbelieving, "No?"

For Amash, there was quick backlash, as his Freedom Caucus colleagues voted to formally condemn his comments. "Justin’s a friend, but Justin is wrong on this," said New Mexico congressman Andy Briggs. Back home, a state legislator who bills himself as a "pro-Trump, pro-life, pro-jobs, pro-second amendment and pro-family values" candidate announced a 2020 challenge to Amash. "He votes more with Nancy Pelosi than he ever votes with me," said House minority leader Kevin McCarthy in an interview on Fox News. "It's a question whether he's even in our Republican Conference as a whole."

In the wake of the Mueller report, Pelosi and her leadership team have urged lawmakers to allow the congressional investigative process to run its course, fearful that an immediate and rancorous impeachment effort could alienate Russia-weary voters and jeopardize hard-earned Democratic seats in purple districts. The Washington Post reported that a handful of more senior House Democrats had privately urged Pelosi to open an impeachment inquiry in order to force the White House to come to the bargaining table. Yet Pelosi, says the Post, held firm in the meeting, arguing that impeachment would "undercut other House investigations" and lacks sufficient support within the Democratic caucus.

Pelosi is known for her ability to keep a diverse caucus in line. But a range of increasingly vocal minority of Democrats—including Massachusetts centrist Seth Moulton and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland—have become impatient with the White House's refusal to cooperate with any and all oversight. "It's time to start," Texas congressman Joaquin Castro told Politico. On Tuesday, New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called on Pelosi to "move forward" with impeachment and abandon this "measured approach."

If the White House plans to ignore every attempt at oversight between now and Election Day 2020, Congress has two options: It can functionally allow Trump to operate above the law, or it can move to impeach him. Right now, a Tea Party Republican has a stronger position than the Democratic Speaker of the House on what Congress should do to hold the president accountable. That's as clear a sign as any that Pelosi's strategy has outlived its usefulness.

Originally Appeared on GQ