Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., has stepped down from the conservative House Freedom Caucus less than a month after becoming the first Republican in either congressional chamber to call for an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

"I have the highest regard for them and they're my close friends," he told CNN on Monday. "I didn't want to be a further distraction for the group.”

Amash, one of nine founding members of the Freedom Caucus in 2015, told CNN in March he had stopped attending meetings and did not like the group’s direction under Trump, after months of tensions within the group. Some of Trump’s most loyal supporters are members of the Freedom Caucus, including Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who has been a vocal opponent of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation and findings.

Amash, 39, has represented Michigan’s Third District since 2011, which includes Grand Rapids, most of its suburbs and Battle Creek. In May, he tweeted after reading the entire redacted Mueller Report, and soliciting additional input from his staff, he believed the president may have committed impeachable offenses.

 

 

The Michigan congressman also has argued Attorney General William Barr misrepresented Mueller’s findings, including in his testimony before Congress. Amash entered the House of Representatives during the Tea Party Rebellion of the last decade, which was supportive of his libertarian conservative views. 

Amash, a lawyer, said, “Contrary to Barr’s portrayal,” the president’s actions “meet the threshold for impeachment,” and anyone other than the president not afforded his unique legal protections would face indictment.

"Our system of checks and balances relies on each branch's jealously guarding its powers and upholding its duties under our Constitution," Amash tweeted. "When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law – the foundation of liberty – crumbles."

 

 

After Amash made public his statements on impeachment, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel criticized him in a statement: “It’s sad to see Congressman Amash parroting the Democrats’ talking points on Russia.”

She added, “The only people still fixed on the Russia collusion hoax are political foes of President Trump hoping to defeat him in 2020 by any desperate means possible. Voters in Amash's district strongly support this president, and would rather their congressman work to support the president's policies that have brought jobs, increased wages and made life better for Americans.”

On May 29, at his first town hall meeting in Michigan after making his position on impeachment known, he was met by a standing ovation.