The Slatest

Should Democrats Work With the Articulate Conservative Congressman Who Supports Impeachment? (Yes.)

Amash, wearing a blue polo shirt and holding a microphone in one hand, gestures with the other while speaking.
Ex-Republican Rep. Justin Amash at a town hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on May 28. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The relaunched Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative estimate of the likelihood that the House votes to impeach Trump before the end of his first term.

The Washington Post reported over the weekend that “30 freshman Democrats” in the House, led by Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, have asked caucus leaders to consider bringing ex-Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan on board as an “impeachment manager” if and when the case for removing Donald Trump from office is presented in the Senate. (That’s more of a when than an if at this point, given how many Dems even from swing districts—like Phillips, Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, and Utah Rep. Ben McAdams—have announced in recent days or hours that they will vote to impeach.*)


While we wait for word to trickle out about how Nancy Pelosi will respond to the request, let’s consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of getting Amash involved. The downsides:


• Unlike actual Democrats, he doesn’t need Democratic party leaders to help pass legislation he’s proposed, assign him coveted committee seats, or raise money for his reelection campaign. That means that the party wouldn’t have much leverage over him were he to, say, criticize its strategy or message in the press.

• I can’t think of anything else.

The upsides:

• He’s a hard-line fiscal conservative who left the Republican Party in July, becoming an independent, after backlash against his May conclusion that the conduct outlined in Robert Mueller’s special counsel report was “impeachable.” His existence is a reminder that, for all the chin-stroking Beltway media takes about impeachment being an example of “partisan polarization,” the case for removing Trump does not require one to hold a left-of-center belief system and is, in fact, supported by many non-Democrats. There’s no better answer to the Republican talking point about how zero Republicans support impeaching Trump than to draw attention to a person who would still be a prominent Republican if the party didn’t have a Trump loyalty requirement.


• He represents a Trump district and has put his reelection in jeopardy by criticizing the president and leaving the GOP, which is the kind of profile-in-courage storyline that centrist pundits and cable guys like CNN anchor Jake Tapper would absolutely line up to eat with a damn spoon if it became part of an impeachment trial.

• As he demonstrated as early as May and as recently as Monday afternoon, Amash has actually considered the evidence against Trump in detail and can discuss it within the context of relevant laws and precedents with a level of technical and moral clarity that eludes most Democrats. To wit:


Amash is conversant enough in highfalutin’ law talk to blow up disingenuous Republican talking points and tapped-in enough to right-wing trash discourse to learn about those talking points as soon as they surface, which is a good combination to have when making a legal and public-relations argument that involves Donald Trump.


• While he might not be beholden to Democratic leaders per se, Amash could definitely use the firehose of #resistance donations that a role as an effective impeachment manager would likely yield for his reelection campaign. There’s an overlap of interests.

Do it, Nancy!

The Impeach-O-Meter at 99.9 percent.
Illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo and Lisa Larson-Walker/Slate. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

Correction, Dec. 16, 2019: This sentence originally misstated that Donald Trump won Dean Phillips’ district in 2016.