Amash says Trump impeachment justified if reports true

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash told reporters Wednesday that impeaching President Donald Trump would be merited if reports are true that Trump asked ousted FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation of a close political ally.

Amash was responding to a question from a reporter for The Hill newspaper as he as left a House Republican conference meeting.

Chaffetz wants Comey to testify next week

His comments followed reports in the New York Times about a Comey memo detailing a February conversation he had with Trump in which Trump purportedly told Comey, “I hope you can let this go,” referring to the probe of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The White House has said the memo isn’t accurate.

A growing number of Republicans are now calling for Comey to testify before Congress, but few GOP members of Congress have commented publicly about the prospect of impeachment.

Asked whether the Comey memo would merit impeachment, if its content are true, Amash replied: “Yes,” adding “but everybody gets a fair trial in this country.”

Another reporter asked if Amash trusted Comey’s word over Trump’s, to which Amash replied: “I think it’s pretty clear I have more confidence in Director Comey.”

Amash, a frequent Trump critic who represents the Grand Rapids area, tweeted late Tuesday that he wants Comey to testify in an open session “ASAP,” calling the allegations in his memo “incredibly serious.”

Amash might get a chance to hear from Comey on May 24, when the former FBI director has been invited to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Amash sits on the committee, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who has asked the FBI to turn over all memos, notes and recordings detailing communications between Comey and Trump by May 24.

Similarly, leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday requested the FBI provide all memos relating to Comey’s interactions with his superiors in both the Trump and Obama administrations, and asked White House Counsel Donald McGahn to provide records of interactions with Comey, including any audio recordings. They also want the records by May 24.

Amash is the only Republican in Michigan’s delegation who has called for an independent investigation of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, although Rep. Fred Upton, a St. Joseph Republican, has said he’s open to an independent probe or the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Upton said Wednesday the “country deserves answers” on whether Trump attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn, urging Comey to publicly testify.

“I fully support the ongoing efforts to get all of the facts surrounding the firing of FBI Director Comey,” Upton said in a statement. “We must continue to follow the facts wherever they lead so that we can get to the bottom of this.”

Many Republicans, such as Rep. Paul Mitchell of Dryden, have said they want to let the congressional investigations into Russia handle the matter.

“This inquiry by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the ongoing investigations by other bipartisan committees in Congress, must and will continue,” Mitchell said.

Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said Congress must focus on finding the facts.

“If a Comey memo does indeed exist, the FBI and Justice Department need to turn the document over to Congress. Should that not happen, I support issuing a congressional subpoena to obtain the memo,” Huizenga said in a statement. “I hope Mr. Comey will accept the invitation to testify on Capitol Hill next week.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Wednesday aboard Air Force One that Trump says the Times story is “not an accurate description of how the event occurred.”

“The president is confident in the events that he has maintained, and he wants the truth in these investigations to get to the bottom of the situation,” Spicer said, according to a pool report. “There are two investigations going on in the House and Senate, and he wants to get to the bottom of this.”

Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, this week complained about the “inaction” of Republicans on his committee.

In a letter late Tuesday, the Detroit Democrat and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Oversight Democrat, called for a joint investigation into whether Trump and his officials are engaged in an “ongoing conspiracy to obstruct” the criminal, counterintelligence, and oversight probes by the FBI, Department of Justice and by Congress into contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials during the presidential campaign.

“Given the gravity of the events that have occurred over the past several weeks, there is simply no reasonable question that the Oversight Committee and Judiciary Committee should already be conducting a robust investigation of these issues that includes public hearings, document requests, and interviews and depositions,” they wrote.

“It is unacceptable to continue ignoring these scandals.”

Amash and Michigan’s five Democrats in the House have co-sponsored legislation calling for a nonpartisan, independent commission to investigate Russian interference in the election.

House Republicans blocked a procedural vote called by Democrats on Wednesday afternoon that would have forced a vote on the legislation.

Separately, House Democrats on Wednesday circulated a discharge petition – a legislative maneuver that would skip the committee process and allow a simple majority of the House to force a vote on the bill on the House floor.

The petition needs 218 signatures to force a vote, so a number of Republicans would need to sign on. The petition had 111 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the House Clerk’s office. Amash was not among the signatories, although at least one Republican, North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones, joined the petition.

From Michigan, Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, and Conyers both signed the discharge petition.

“President Trump interfering with an ongoing FBI investigation is an abuse of power,” Kildee said in a statement.

“Republicans can no longer stay silent. It is time to put country before party. This is about protecting our democracy.”

The last successful discharge petition in the House was brought forth in 2015 regarding the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

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