WASHINGTON – A private campaign is underway to draft Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., as an impeachment manager in the Senate trial of President Donald Trump, a bid to diversify House Democrats’ appeal to voters with a rare conservative voice.
A group of 30 freshman Democrats, led by Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., has asked House leaders to consider the libertarian, who left the Republican Party earlier this year, for the small group tasked with arguing its case for removing Trump in the upper chamber, according to several Democratic officials.
The thinking, according to these people, is that Amash would reach conservative voters in a way Democrats can’t, potentially bolstering their case to the public. He also would provide Democrats cover from GOP accusations that they’re pursuing a partisan impeachment; Amash is one of the most conservative members of the House and a vocal Trump critic.
“To the extent that this can be bipartisan, it should, and I think including Representative Amash amongst the impeachment managers is a smart move both for the country, for the substance and for the optics,” Phillips said, adding that Amash brings an array of qualifications: He’s an attorney, a constitutionalist and “the first and only member of the Republican conference, when he was a Republican, to show courage,” Phillips added.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would ultimately make the call and is expected to announce managers early this week, multiple Democrats said. Amash did not respond to a request for comment about whether he would accept such a position. But Phillips, who is in touch with Amash about the idea, said the lawmaker has agreed to consider it if asked.
The move would be unorthodox but not entirely unprecedented. Pelosi chose a five-member bipartisan group from the House Judiciary Committee to oversee the impeachment of a corrupt federal judge about a decade ago. Still, most Democrats predict impeachment managers would hail from their own party and be steeped in the evidence gathered by the House Intelligence and House Judiciary panels. Amash is on neither committee.
Additionally, tapping Amash would be something of a gamble for Pelosi. While most Democrats would fall in line with her strategy in the Senate, Amash would be something of a wild card, given his lack of loyalty to the Democratic Party.
However, Democrats supportive of the idea – a group that includes conservative Blue Dogs as well as liberal members – applaud Amash for his courage standing up to Trump and his own party. While Amash was not part of the House investigative process, he’s a former lawyer known for his strict interpretations of the Constitution and is well-versed in the writings of the Founding Fathers.
Democrats also argue that Amash’s vastly different views on policy also make him a prime choice.
“There couldn’t be anyone perhaps in the entire U.S. House . . . whose general political views are as polar opposite from many of us in the Democratic Caucus, and that’s what makes it such a powerful statement: that on the issue of our responsibility to our Constitution, we are perfectly aligned,” said Phillips, who said he had an “epiphany” on the idea Friday night and has been shopping it around ever sense.
The push for Amash comes as Democrats have struggled to pick off even a single congressional Republican to support the impeachment of Trump. Past impeachments have been bipartisan, and even a handful of Democrats backed the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton.
Democrats have accused Republicans of selling out their country in the name of party loyalty; Republicans have said Democrats rushed the impeachment instead of building a bulletproof case.
Discussions about Amash are particularly timely given the news that Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a moderate Democrat from New Jersey, is expected to change parties, in part out of frustration with his own colleagues for pursuing what he calls a partisan and divisive impeachment based on “hearsay.” Republicans are already salivating at the prospect of holding up the soon-to-be former Democrat as a prime example that the party has overreached with impeachment and is repelling more moderate Americans.
Enter Amash, who has been a vocal critic of Trump on Twitter, using the platform over the past few months to argue that Trump has breached the public’s trust, engaged in unethical behavior and should be impeached.
On Friday, Amash jabbed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for saying he would coordinate with the White House to acquit Trump rather than remain impartial. He also lambasted Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for telling CNN in an interview that “I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”
“Senator Graham has chosen to violate his oath to support and defend the Constitution, his oath to do impartial justice in an impeachment trial, and his duty to represent all the people of his state, not just those who share his political views or desire a particular outcome,” Amash wrote.