Michigan Rep. Justin Amash became the first Republican lawmaker to declare that President Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses and that Attorney General William Barr “deliberately misrepresented” special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
Amash, whose libertarian views often put him at odds with Trump and his fellow Republicans, posted a series of tweets Saturday afternoon outlining positions that even some Democrats have been unwilling to embrace — an extraordinary development that comes as Democratic leaders face increasing pressure from progressives to launch impeachment proceedings.
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“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 wrote, arguing that lawmakers have become too afraid of using impeachment to deter presidential misconduct.
“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,” Amash wrote.
In recent days, more rank-and-file Democrats have said they support initiating impeachment proceedings against the president; but Speaker Nancy Pelosi and most Democratic leaders and committee chairs have resisted those calls, citing their ongoing investigations into the president’s alleged conduct. The House Judiciary Committee, for example, is investigating Trump for allegations of obstruction of justice and abuses of power.
Around half of Mueller’s 448-page report is devoted to allegations that the president sought to undermine or shut down the special counsel’s investigation altogether. The report outlined several episodes that meet all the element of an obstruction of justice offense, most notably former White House Counsel Don McGahn’s testimony about Trump’s persistent efforts to have McGahn fire the special counsel.
Amash argued that Congress is failing to live up to its constitutional duties in part because of “extreme partisanship” that has worsened under Trump.
“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,” Amash said. “Our system of checks and balances relies on each branch’s [sic] 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.”
The Michigan Republican also echoed Democrats and hundreds of former federal prosecutors who have argued that Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice if he were not president — a reference to the Justice Department’s long-standing policy stating that a sitting president cannot be indicted. In his report, Mueller cited that policy when explaining his decision not to charge Trump with a crime.
Amash took aim specifically at Barr, putting the GOP lawmaker in line with Democrats who have accused the attorney general of trying to portray Mueller’s report in a favorable light for the president.
“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,” Amash said, adding that “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.”
Despite Amash’s frequent opposition to Trump, he is one of the most conservative members of Congress and sits on the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating Trump for alleged financial crimes. His fellow Republicans have maintained that Democrats’ various investigation of Trump are politically motivated and illegitimate, and they’ve largely declared Mueller’s Russia probe to be a settled issue that warrants no further action or investigation.
Amash claimed that most members of Congress haven’t even read Mueller’s report, and he slammed those lawmakers whose minds were made up “within hours” of the release of the redacted version of Mueller’s report.
“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,” he concluded.