(Bloomberg) -- Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a libertarian who’s often at odds with most other congressional Republicans, said Donald Trump has engaged in “impeachable conduct,” drawing a rebuke from the president as a “total lightweight.”
Amash said on Twitter Saturday that he’s concluded -- after reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted 448-page report -- that Attorney General William Barr “deliberately misrepresented” the findings using “sleight-of-hand qualifications or logical fallacies.”
“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,” said Amash, 39, who arrived in Congress as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010.
Amash’s manifesto-like string of more than a dozen tweets stopped short of actually calling for Trump’s impeachment.
Trump responded Sunday on Twitter, calling Amash “a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands” and “a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy.”
Other prominent Republicans on Sunday morning talk shows also disagreed with Amash. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said on “Sunday Morning Futures” that Amash has a record of breaking ranks to vote with Democrats and just wants attention.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a vocal Trump critic in the past, called Amash’s comments “courageous” but said neither the Republican-controlled Senate nor the American people are on board with impeachment.
“I don’t think impeachment is the right way to go,” Romney said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” While Romney said he hasn’t decided whether to support Trump’s re-election next year, the most he would say about the president’s behavior is that “he could substantially improve his game when it comes to helping shape the character of the country.”
Even so, Amash’s defection from the Republican ranks emboldened some Democrats who want to see impeachment proceedings start. Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who has submitted an impeachment resolution, commended Amash on Twitter on Saturday and asked him to sign on to the resolution to make it bipartisan.
“You are putting country first, and that is to be commended,” Tlaib said to Amash in a tweet.
While Amash has shown more courage than any other congressional Republican, it’s the administration’s “maximum obstruction campaign” to thwart oversight efforts by Democrats that may spur impeachment proceedings as a tool to get cooperation, Representative Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
More members of Congress are recognizing that the administration is “acting in a lawless fashion,” and if the only way to properly do oversight is to start impeachment proceedings, “maybe we have to go down that road,” Schiff said.
Amash’s observations about Trump and other assertions decrying political partisanship come after published reports that the Libertarian Party has urged the lawmaker to consider a third-party challenge to Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call noted that Amash hasn’t rejected the idea, and has suggested that there needs to be an alternative offered to the two major parties. In his Saturday tweets, Amash offered, “Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.”
As for Mueller’s report, Amash said it “identified multiple examples of conduct satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice.” Any person other than the president “would be indicted based on such evidence,” he said.
He explained impeachment is a special form of indictment, “which does not even require probable cause that a crime has been committed.”
Impeachment should be undertaken only in “extraordinary circumstances,” said Amash. But he added that the risk in such an environment is “not that Congress will employee it as a remedy too often, but rather that Congress will employ it so rarely that it cannot deter misconduct.”
He continued, “When loyalty to a political party or individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law -- the foundation of liberty -- crumbles.”
The tweets represented Amash’s latest break with the majority of his party. In the past, he’s been the sole House Republican to vote against Trump’s use of emergency powers to divert funds for a wall along the Mexican border, as well as the sales of munitions to Saudi Arabia.
Amash is a leader of the House Liberty Caucus. He also helped found another conservative House group, the Freedom Caucus, that’s opposed to government overreach and too much spending. But he has since said he’s become disenchanted with that group’s loyalty to Trump.
(Updates with Trump in fifth paragraph, other details throughout.)
--With assistance from Mark Niquette and Hailey Waller.
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