GOP frowns on but does not punish Amash’s impeachment call

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy pushed back Tuesday against Rep. Justin Amash and his call for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, saying the Michigan Republican is out of step with others in the party and with Americans.

But the most conservative group of House Republicans declined to oust Amash from its ranks. And Amash isn’t backing down.

“Their pressure doesn’t have influence on me,” Amash said in a brief interview with The Associated Press. “I really am not concerned about what Kevin McCarthy thinks about it.”

The development came after Amash became the first Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment. On Twitter over the last several days, Amash said special counsel Robert Mueller’s description of the president’s efforts to shut down the probe and get others to lie for him qualifies as obstruction.

Republicans were furious, in part because Amash, a libertarian, is a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and remains in the group even though he hasn’t shown up lately to meetings.

The caucus Monday voted by a show of hands to condemn Amash’s call for Trump’s impeachment. McCarthy, who on Monday questioned whether Amash is really a part of the House Republican Conference, said Amash was an outlier.

“Mr. Amash always has a different voting record than most of us, anyway,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday.

“Amash has consistently voted against President Donald Trump on important issues,” said state Rep. Jim Lower, who scrambled to announce his campaign Monday after Amash’s tweets. In a telephone interview later in the day, Lower said, “Most Republican Party primary voters support the president and want a congressman that would work with him to get his agenda done.”

Amash was elected in 2010 as part of the tea party wave that toppled Democratic control. He was one of the founding members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. He vowed to explain all his votes, and to never miss one.

But many of the Freedom Caucus members are no longer in Congress and the group is now dominated by pro-Trump Republicans. Amash acknowledges he’s somewhat isolated in Washington as a result.

Back home in Michigan, establishment Republicans in the business community have long been disenchanted with Amash, saying he does not do enough to solve problems in the district. They backed an unsuccessful primary challenger in 2014. But the dynamics have shifted with Trump’s election, and GOP operatives say the president’s criticism of Amash has hurt the congressman’s standing with the base.

“He’s the most vulnerable in a Republican primary that he’s ever been,” said Greg McNeilly, a Republican strategist in Grand Rapids. “The 3rd District, while much more of a swing district in a general election for the president, is a solidly Trumpian district in a primary. The delta between the president and congressman is the chief source of Justin Amash’s problem.”

In calling for Trump’s impeachment, Amash stepped farther even than some Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is holding her increasingly restive caucus to a step-by-step process by which the courts and perhaps the House would weigh in on Trump’s lack of cooperation. Multiple committees are investigating Trump’s business dealings and other conduct. Pelosi and her allies say it would take more Republicans than just Amash, plus broad public sentiment, to trigger impeachment proceedings.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., described a tense meeting Monday night in which a vocal minority of Pelosi’s leadership team spoke in favor of launching an impeachment inquiry, and Pelosi held firm.