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Courageous Amash breaks dramatically with his party

May 22,2019 - Last updated at May 22,2019

US President Donald Trump has responded viciously to the first Republican lawmaker to charge him of impeachable conduct. Trump claimed the Mueller investigation had cleared his election campaign of conspiring with Russia to promote his bid for the presidency, and of his attempts while in office to obstruct investigations into his behaviour. He Tweeted Republican dissident, Justin Amash, "is a total lightweight… [and] a loser who sadly plays right into our opponents hands!”

Courageous Republican Congressman Amash has broken dramatically with his party to become its first member to accuse Donald Trump of impeachable offenses. After reading the 448-page Mueller report on Trump's campaign and presidential activities, Amash said Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller showed Trump had "engaged in specific actions [that] meet the threshold for impeachment".

Amash tweeted: "undoubtedly any person who is not the president of the United States would be indicted based on such evidence." He said in a second Tweet, "Under our Constitution, the president 'shall be removed from Office on impeachment for, and Conviction of Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanours.’ While ‘high Crimes and Misdemeanours' is not defined, the context implies conduct that violates public trust.”

Amash also charged Attorney General William Barr, a Republican stalwart totally loyal to Trump, of misreporting the conclusions of the Mueller report in order to mislead the public and exonerate Trump.

Although the report did not find there was a criminal conspiracy between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, Mueller did list 10 attempts by Trump to block the investigation, and called on Congress to deal with them. This has not happened, as the Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate, where two-thirds must vote in favour of impeachment if it is to be successful.

Amash also said "partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances" enshrined in the US constitution, and pointed out that "few members of Congress have read the report" and approached it according to "partisan affiliation".

Amash joined some 900 former federal prosecutors who served with both Republican and Democratic  administrations and who contend Trump's behaviour, as reported by Mueller, would have attracted "multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice" if he were not in the White House. Liberals ask why Republicans other than Amash and leading Democrats do not opt for impeachment. The answer to this question is simple: Republicans hope to be reelected on the coat-tails of Trump, who remains popular with his base, while Democrats claim pressing for impeachment now, ahead of next year's election campaigns, is pointless and could even propel Trump back into the White House.

Amash's independent stands on these issues may be explained by the fact that his father is of Palestinian origin, his mother Syrian. The family is Orthodox Christian and has a thriving tool business in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dissident Democrat representative from Michigah, Rashida Tlaib, promptly called Amash to "co-sponsor" a resolution calling for an investigation into impeachment. One of two Muslim Congresswomen, Tlaib praised Amash for putting "country over party." She and other first-time Democrat legislators have called for Trump's impeachment, despite opposition from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior Democrats who argue it is better to oust Trump in the 2020 elections.

Tlaib's mother is from an Israeli-occupied village in the West Bank, her father from the Beit Hanina suburb of Israeli illegally annexed East Jerusalem. She is a member of the Democratic Socialist leftist, wing of the Democrat party, and makes common cause with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as Ilhan Omar, the first Somali refugee Muslim woman to win a seat in the lower house of Congress.

While Amash and Tlaib are on opposite sides of the House, they both stand up for principles which many in their parties seem to have abandoned, resulting in the deep divide which afflicts the US and which can be expected to grow if Trump wins a second term in office.

Contrary to Trump's Tweet, Amash is anything but a "lightweight" and loser. He has represented the third district in the mid-western state of Michgan since 2010, having won five elections to the lower house. He belongs to the "libertarian" Freedom Caucus, which differs with the Republican party majority on a number of issues.

In particular, he has been an outspoken critic of Trump and opposed his presidential nomination. Amash calls for a return to traditional "American values" and constitutional legality.

Amash initiated eminent domain legislation that would impede the construction of Trump's border wall. Amash argues that Trump has overstepped the bounds by declaring a "national emergency" on the US-Mexican border with the aim of appropriating funds from the Defence Department and other government agencies to build the wall he promised his voters during the 2016 campaign.

On regional affairs, Amash supports the "two-state solution" of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, opposes the war in Yemen and fresh sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea, calls for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and argues against the presidential use of force without Congressional authorisation.

Amash is said to  be considering a third party presidential run in November 2020. Commentators suggest that if he does stand, he could very well deny Trump the votes he needs for reelection from the key state of Michigan, which Trump won by only a few percentage points in 2016.  However, Amash faces a dilemma over whether to run or not. Amash does not want Trump, who is almost certain to be the Republican candidate, to win but fears running as an independent could give the victory to the Democrats.

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