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Rep. Amash Hasn't Ruled Out Running For President As A Third-Party Candidate


How is Congressman Justin Amash thinking about his future? The Michigan lawmaker was the only House Republican who supported impeachment proceedings against the president - until he stopped being a Republican, leaving the party July Fourth. He is not ruling out a third-party challenge to the president. He spoke with NPR's Tim Mak.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Amash's office is barren. A pile of boxes sit by the wall, and framed posters sit unhung on the floor - seven months since they moved in. It's fitting for a lawmaker who has always been more cerebral, a person who others have observed is more interested in ideology than attention.

DAVID BOAZ: Justin Amash is the best libertarian there's been in Congress in my lifetime.

MAK: David Boaz is the executive vice president of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

BOAZ: He really has been, in a lot of ways, what people in Washington call a workhorse, not a show horse.

MAK: Amash sat with NPR to explain exactly what happened.

JUSTIN AMASH: The problem is undying party loyalty, where people put parties above all else.

MAK: It's not just Trump, he said.

AMASH: The president didn't start these problems, but he certainly escalated the problems. A big part of it is tone and rhetoric. If you have someone at the top who's always angry at others, then that trickles down and affects a lot of other people.

MAK: There have been very few independents in the House of Representatives. Without a party, lawmakers are less likely to get an assignment to a committee, where they can influence legislation.

VIRGIL GOODE: You have less opportunity to do good for your district.

MAK: That's Virgil Goode, who left the Democratic Party to become an independent in 1999 after supporting a different impeachment process, that of Bill Clinton. He lost his committee assignment but later joined the GOP, gaining a coveted committee seat. For his part, Amash formally quit the Republican conference this week and gave up his spot on the oversight panel.

But being an insurgent is not new for the congressman. Amash was first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, swept into Congress by promising to support smaller government. He spoke about being disillusioned about how some of those individuals, in his view, lost their way and became Trump boosters instead.

AMASH: It's disheartening to see people who came to Congress with me set aside a lot of the things they ran on.

MAK: And those one-time allies didn't exactly approve of his decision to leave the party. Republican Ted Yoho said all parties have problems.

TED YOHO: He was talking about the dysfunctions that we see. They're rampant up here, on both sides, through the whole process.

MAK: Mark Meadows, the chair of the pro-Trump Freedom Caucus and a former ally of Amash's was curt.

MARK MEADOWS: You know, he's an independent member of Congress, always has an independent spirit. So now he can exercise that more fully.

MAK: Amash says that his next step is running for reelection in the house as an independent, but Cato's David Boaz says that Amash has a substantial national following as a libertarian and could pose a threat to Trump in 2020.

BOAZ: He's certainly well-connected and highly respected within the broad libertarian movement. So in that sense, he's got a base.

MAK: The Trump campaign wants to keep Michigan in its column in 2020. They won there by a tight margin of approximately 10,000 votes in 2016 out of 4.8 million votes cast. Amash could change the calculus if he ran. While he wouldn't rule a presidential bid out, he also wouldn't rule it in.

AMASH: I don't think anyone can commit in life that nothing will change.

MAK: But if Amash decides to stay on his current course, he will be the only independent in the House of Representatives and the first since 2007. And that could be a lonely road ahead.

Tim Mak, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.
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