Hundreds of Republicans, Democrats and Independents turned out at a high school auditorium Tuesday to show support for U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a maverick west Michigan Republican congressman who is under fire for calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Amash, R-Cascade Township, is facing a primary challenge, loss of financial support and ridicule on Twitter from Trump after reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and becoming the first GOP member of Congress to say Trump should be impeached.
But it was a mostly supportive crowd that attended Grand Rapids Christian High School Tuesday for a town hall meeting organized by Amash. The crowd frequently interrupted him with applause, and in one case, a standing ovation. Several audience members rose to thank and compliment Amash for showing courage in the face of party opposition.
Amash said Mueller presented all the elements to support a criminal charge of obstruction of justice against Trump, but did not bring an indictment because he said he believes a sitting president can’t be indicted. Amash said he agrees with Mueller that Trump can’t be charged with a crime while in office.
But impeachment is a separate question, Amash told the crowd.
“I think it’s very important that we do our job as a Congress — that we not allow misconduct to go undeterred,” Amash said.
“I’m confident that if you read Volume 2 (of the Mueller report) you’ll be appalled by much of the conduct,” he said. “I was appalled.”
Amash said he’s concerned that if impeachment is not invoked in this case, he fears it may never be used, and that would damage the office. “We should expect the president to uphold the law,” he said.
The meeting was scheduled for one hour but lasted about twice that long.
Of those who arrived early for the town hall meeting, nearly all of those interviewed said they were there to show support for Amash. Some said they support impeachment and others said they do not, but nearly all of them praised Amash for his willingness to stick to and voice his convictions.
“I’ve always been a Republican, but I didn’t vote for Trump,” said Jeanie Hopkins of East Grand Rapids. “There are some people who love Trump, but personally, I think he’s very rude. I think he’s an embarrassment.”
Several Democratic voters who lined up outside the high school said they plan to vote for Amash in the next congressional election.
“He’s willing to speak truth to power, despite the cowardice and spinelessness of all of the rest of the Republicans,” said Marge Friar, a retired Grand Rapids teacher who was holding a sign that read: “Country Over Politics.”
Friar said she normally votes for Democrats but now plans to support Amash in 2020. “I am desperate for integrity,” she said.
Far outnumbered was Diane Luke, a Grand Rapids educator who wore a red “Make America Great Again” ball cap.
“I have voted for Justin Amash in every election, but he’s become a Democrat,” said Luke, who later spoke out against Amash at the town hall as many in the auditorium tried to shout her down.
“The Mueller report is a total lie — it was from the beginning,” Luke said.
Amash “said that President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct,” Luke told the Free Press. “No he hasn’t. Everyone who has accused him of that has engaged in treasonous conduct.”
Another Republican in the audience, who did not identify herself, said she has supported Amash since he first ran but has now changed her mind about him. She said he is no longer doing his job of representing his constituents.
“My job is to uphold the Constitution,” Amash replied.
Amash continued his Twitter stream related to the Mueller report on Tuesday, saying: “In truth, Mueller’s report describes concerning contacts between members of Trump’s campaign and people in or connected to the Russian government.”
Also, Attorney General William Barr “has so far successfully used his position to sell the president’s false narrative to the American people,” Amash said. “This will continue if those who have read the report do not start pushing back on his misrepresentations and share the truth.”
The Tuesday tweets followed earlier posts on May 23 and on May 18, when Amash first said he thought the president should be impeached.
“Some of the president’s actions were inherently corrupt. Other actions were corrupt — and therefore impeachable — because the president took them to serve his own interests,” Amash wrote on Twitter on May 23.
Trump took to Twitter on May 19 and called Amash a “total lightweight” and a “loser,” and suggested he was seeking publicity.
Asked by a constituent Tuesday whether he was positioning himself to run for president as an Independent, Amash said he wouldn’t rule out running for president or any office. But if that were his plan, “this is not how I would do it,” he said to laughter in the auditorium.
Amash is a five-term incumbent from west Michigan who has a strong libertarian streak and has sparred with the president before.
Trump has maintained the report exonerated him, even though Mueller wrote otherwise. Mueller said he found insufficient evidence linking the Russian effort to affect the outcome of the 2016 election with Trump. But he offered no such remark on the question of whether Trump obstructed justice, saying only that he did not believe the president could be criminally charged while in office.
Mueller also specifically said that if he thought Trump should be exonerated on the question of obstruction he would make such a recommendation, but did not.
The politically powerful DeVos family said May 22 that it is no longer financially backing Amash.
Nick Wasmiller, a spokesman for the family’s RDV Corp., said family members have not made campaign contributions to the congressman this political cycle and have no plans to do so.
Amash is facing a primary challenge for the first time since 2014, when billionaire members of the DeVos family — who live in Amash’s Grand Rapids-area district — gave his campaign roughly $65,000 while others in the business community backed his challenger. Though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has halted all of her political spending since joining Trump’s Cabinet, others in the family — heirs to the Amway marketing empire — are still major GOP donors.
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, a Michigan native and niece of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has also criticized Amash.
“The only people still fixated on the Russia collusion hoax are political foes of President Trump hoping to defeat him in 2020 by any desperate means possible,” McDaniel said in a statement.
“Voters in Amash’s district strongly support this President, and would rather their Congressman work to support the President’s policies that have brought jobs, increased wages and made life better for Americans.”