Amash over the weekend became the first Republican in the House to support impeachment proceedings for Trump based on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. He accused his party of abandoning its principles to accommodate Trump by ignoring evidence of the president’s obstruction of justice.
“President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct,” Amash tweeted on Saturday.
The Michigan congressman, who has first elected during the 2010 Tea Party wave, has also toyed with the idea of abandoning the GOP to run for president as a Libertarian.
But Paul, a libertarian-leaning senator from Kentucky who has grown close with Trump, said Amash got it all wrong. He called the Mueller report the “antithesis of libertarianism.”
“I actually think the libertarian position on the investigation is ― you know, libertarians, we’ve been very, very critical of the intelligence community having too much power, including congressman Amash has said, you know, really you should have to get a warrant before you get an American’s records,” Paul told HuffPost in a brief interview on Wednesday.
Trump has repeatedly attacked Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election, calling it a partisan “witch hunt” and at times pointing to the approval of a surveillance warrant on his campaign aide Carter Page.
But that warrant was approved after Page left the operation, and there’s no evidence to suggest the Justice Department was illegally surveilling Trump’s campaign, as FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress earlier this month.
But that hasn’t stopped senators like Paul and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) from pushing for an investigation into surveillance of Trump’s campaign. Attorney General William Barr recently has also appointed a special prosecutor to look into the matter.
Paul said he believed the Mueller investigation was “an abuse of intelligence power consistent with what libertarians have been complaining about for a long time.” He further said he supported an amendment offered by Amash in the House “which says you have to have a warrant before you target Americans because foreign intelligence warrants have a lower standard.”
Republicans have attempted to distance themselves from Amash following his remarks, even as he has continued to press his case, including to school children on the steps of the U.S. Capitol this week. Trump called him a “total lightweight” and a “loser who sadly plays right into our opponents’ hands.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), meanwhile, said Amash was “just looking for attention.”
The conservative House Freedom Caucus, which Amash helped found, even voted to condemn his remarks.
Paul did not answer a reporter’s question on Wednesday whether he agreed with the House Freedom Caucus’ decision to censure Amash.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), another libertarian-leaning voice in the Senate, declined to comment when asked about Amash’s remarks suggesting impeachment.
But one Republican senator, who requested anonymity to discuss the situation, expressed skepticism that Amash was speaking out simply to gain publicity.
“I’ve known him to be a pretty straight shooter. I don’t see him doing this just as a publicity stunt,” the senator said.