Donald Trump is already supporting a primary opponent for the sole Republican to admit that the Mueller report actually does include impeachable offenses. Now that Rep. Justin Amash has violated the One Commandment—never speak ill of Trump—Republicans are not sure he can remain in the club. Neither is Amash. But he may do something else that causes Trump as much grief as his talk about impeachment.
There is nothing that focuses Trump’s attention like someone who won’t bow on command, but what Amash is doing is far worse than simply refusing to get his lickspittle on. Amash is quoting from the Mueller report. He’s encouraging other people to read the Mueller report. He’s confirming Democratic statements that what’s in the Mueller report is easily enough to warrant an immediate impeachment inquiry. As much as Republicans have suggested that opening impeachment proceedings against Trump would be great for Trump and great for their party, the idea that Amash is actually supporting that process seems to scare them to death. How odd.
As Politico reports, Trump has taken time away from his busy schedule of golf and complimenting dictators to launch a special project—the Squash Amash project. Trump and his “top advisers” (which probably does not mean Jared or Ivanka) have huddled in the White House to create a plan for propping up a primary opponent for Amash. The family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has declared that Amash is to be cut off from the dollars it supplied in previous cycles. And Republicans are carefully walling him off from access and big-money donors.
All of this is designed for one purpose: “a warning shot to other Republicans thinking of crossing [Trump].” Trump isn’t being subtle about this. Trump does not do subtle. He’s making it clear that any Republicans who don’t toe the line will find themselves cut off from funds, excised from cliques and connections, and facing a well-funded primary challenger who has the direct support of the White House. It’s like shunning—except with a lot more Twitter insults and gloating.
On Monday Amash stepped down from the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus that he helped to found, because that caucus has become a platform for the most extreme Trump support in the House. On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy indicated that Amash was “in a different place” than his party. As evidence of that difference, McCarthy pointed out that Amash voted to make the Mueller report public … something the party of Trump vehemently opposed.
When the official party position is quisling, the last thing you want is some Jiminy Cricket running around plucking on those old conscience strings. Especially when that someone keeps reminding people that there’s a 180 degree difference between the platform you ran on pre-Trump and the things you’re nodding along with now. Amash is holding up a mirror to Republicans, and they do not like it.
But Amash may not stand there and wait for Donald Trump’s hand-selected opponent to MAGA his way to a primary victory. As the Washington Monthly reports, Amash is considering another role: that of spoiler in the 2020 election. Speculation is rampant that rather than make a run for his House seat in the next cycle, Amash is going to make a presidential run as a Libertarian, making a direct appeal to those Republicans who aren’t ready to sign on to Team Blue, but hate what Donald Trump has done to their party.
That may be something like 10% of Republicans. It may also be 10% that Trump can’t afford to lose. Amash’s positions aren’t really Libertarian—they’re hard Tea Party right. He just might find a slight purchase in the states where even a thin margin would make a difference.
While those White House advisers are cackling over how they’re going to turn Amash into a showcase for what happens when you upset Trump … they might want to check to their right.