"Hopefully, over time, [the] two parties start to fall apart," says Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) in an interview with Reason recorded last week at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas. "I can go straight to Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere and tell people exactly what I stand for."
First elected in 2010, the libertarian congressman helped co-found the influential House Freedom Caucus, sponsored bills to cut spending and defang the National Security Agency, and took an active role in the successful effort to depose John Boehner as house majority leader.
A critic of executive power and champion of constitutionalism, the Grand Rapids native is a thorn in the side of Donald Trump, serving as one of only two GOP co-sponsors of a bill calling for an independent, investigative commission into the president's Russia-related behavior. He frequently calls out the administration on social media, and is on the receiving end of a White House call to get primaried.
This interview was recorded on July 21, 2017. A transcript is below.
Cameras by Justin Monticello and Meredith Bragg; edited by Mark McDaniel. Graphics by Bragg.
Music: "Calling (Instrumental)" by Dexter Britain (http://www.dexterbritain.co.uk). Creative Commons.
This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.
Matt Welch: We're recording this on Friday afternoon. A lot of stuff has happened in the last 36 hours in Washington having to do with President Donald Trump. He gave an interview with The New York Times in which he said, if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't hire Jeff Sessions, because Jeff Sessions recused himself of Russian investigations, he called into question the integrity of a lot of people in the Justice Department, kicked the tires on potential pardons for his kids or other people in the administration, and generally is starting to put pressure on the special counsel, Robert Mueller, "Don't get too far out of your lanes" and this type of stuff.
As someone who co-sponsored one of the two Republican ... Co-sponsors, if I know this right, of a bill in Congress to investigate the or set up a special commission, what's your general reaction to this behavior over the last 36 hours?
Justin Amash: It's typical, it's not anything new. So it didn't surprise me, and I think that the President doesn't really understand how the Justice Department works, and that he really needs to keep some distance from these investigations. But, it's Donald Trump, and he's gonna do what he's gonna do.
Welch: What if he fires Robert Mueller? Is that a constitutional crisis? You study the Constitution more than most of us sleep or breathe. When does it become a constitutional crisis? Is that the point ... If he pre-pardons somebody close to him, is that a constitutional crisis?
Amash: I don't know the history on pardons, and whether that would be a major problem constitutionally, but the president has a lot of authority to fire people within the executive branch. So, setting aside the constitutional concerns, because I think you can at least make some arguments, I don't know whether they hold water ... Setting aside the constitutional concerns, there are ethical concerns, there are rule of law concerns, so we want to make sure that when a president is in the White House that he's living up to all of the ethical standards, that he is allowing the system of justice to work itself out the way it's supposed to work without interference. And there are those concerns. So I don't want to go the constitutional route yet on this kind of thing, but certainly there are rule of law and ethics concerns.
Welch: If he does do something like that, does that kick in a remedy as far as you're concerned? Should there be some action that hasn't been taken so far taken as a result of that?
Amash: Well, there are always political consequences. So polling numbers will change if people think that the president can't be trusted. There are those political realities, and you'll have more and more Republicans who are uncomfortable with the way the White House is operating. So, I think over time, that's probably what will have the biggest impact here. Whether it will impact the president's behavior over the next few years, I don't know. But it might have an impact over the next election cycle.