GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. —
While “Squash Amash” was the message at a rally outside the Gerald R. Ford Federal Building in Grand Rapids Friday, the overtones were Pro-Trump.
A crowd of over 100 people stood along Michigan Street NW to demonstrate outside U.S. Rep. Justin Amash's (R-Grand Rapids) local office. The rally was put on by several Republican groups including the Michigan Trump Republicans and the Michigan Conservative Coalition. It was also sponsored by a new political action committee— The New American Populist PAC.
The official goal of the rally was to “demand Amash step down from his elected position.”
Since Amash became the first Republican member of the House to say President Donald Trump engaged in “impeachable conduct,” he has made national headlines and received some blowback for his position.
“We need someone who is going to stand with our president,” said Rosanne Ponkowski, one of the organizers of the rally. “Justin Amash is no longer representing his constituents in this district. He’s not voting with our values; he’s not voting with our president.”
Ponkowski’s opinion was shared with others at the rally. Sue Stenk, from Ottawa County said she doesn’t think Amash represents his constituents or the Republican party.
Although rally was mobilized to be anti-Amash, with the group also pushing a petition to ask the five-term Congressman to resign, the crowd was largely made up of Trump supporters.
Malinda Pego is from Muskegon, which is not in Amash’s district. She said she came out because she saw the event as a Pre-Trump rally.
“He is announcing his re-election on Tuesday,” Pego said. “Utilizing [this] for the promotion of Trump for 2020.”
First it’s a pro-Trump rally, said Jan Weller of Grandville. “We are definitely for our president,” she said, but “we are very distressed about Justin Amash and how he’s been voting and what he’s been saying.”
The PAC behind the event is brand new; Friday's rally was its first event, said founder Jeff Webb, a Tennessee businessman. "We believe that President Trump's policies have gone a long way to turning the corner. The first president in 30 years to take on the cause of the middle class and their betterment," he said.
The rally’s organizers also said they held the event on June 14 because it’s Trump’s birthday and Flag Day. During the event, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to the president.
While the crowd was mostly Trump supporters, there were a few people who disagreed. One woman was wearing a Trump mask and holding a sign that said “I suck.”
Tom Horrigan, a Grand Rapids man, said he is an Amash supporter who votes Republican but did not vote for Trump.
"I came out to support [Amash]. He's a man who is educated," said Horrigan. "He read the Mueller report, and he made a judgement. He has to follow his conscious."
Amash has represented Michigan's 3rd Congressional district since 2011, getting elected in a wave of Tea Party Republicans. As a congressman in the Trump presidency, Amash has made it clear that he is not a rank-and-file Trump Republican in the House.
It’s been about a month since Amash unleashed his position that the president violated the public trust, thus committing impeachable offenses, by obstructing justice during the Russia investigation. Amash is still pushing that opinion and dealing with the aftereffects of such making strong statements about Trump.
On Tuesday, Amash announced that he was leaving the House Freedom Caucus—a group of about 40 Republican congressmen who advocate for conservative and libertarian values. Amash was a co-founder of the group, which in recent years has become a staunch defender of Trump.
The congressman held a town hall in Grand Rapids in late May to defend his impeachment comments and field questions from voters. Hundreds showed up to that event at Grand Rapids Christian High School, and Amash was met with a standing ovation when a man in the crowd said he wanted to “salute [his] courage.”
13 ON YOUR SIDE reached out to Amash’s office for a response to the rally. They did not provide a comment, however, on Saturday the Congressman replied to a tweet from Michigan Advance reporter Nick Manes who asked: "Did they squash @justinamash yet." To which, Amash responded: "Sir, it appears that Amash has not been squashed."
Although Amash is the sole Republican member of the House calling for impeachment, he has been joined by three other Michigan representatives: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit), Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), and according to the Detroit Free Press, Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint).
WHAT’S NEXT FOR AMASH
There are currently three people running against Amash for the 3rd district congressional seat: Jim Lower, a Republican, Tom Norton, a Republican, and Doug Booth, a Democrat.
Both Lower and Norton showed up to the rally Friday to meet with voters and campaign against the incumbent congressman.
A MIRS poll released on Tuesday showed that Lower is 16 points ahead of Amash. Lower, a Michigan state representative from Greenville, calls himself a “Trump-based” candidate.
This week, POLITICO reported that Trump is considering backing one of the Republicans running against Amash--the move would be atypical, but could be seen as a threat to other Republicans who criticize the president. While the Trump team has not confirmed that nor announced any endorsements for candidates in the 3rd district, Donald Trump Jr. did retweet the MIRS poll that showed Lower in the lead.
Trump Jr. said, “See you soon Justin... I hear Michigan is beautiful during primary season.”
When asked about the reports Trump might back one of the Republicans running against Amash, Lower said he hopes to get an endorsement from the president.
“And I’ll be in DC next week,” he added.
Amash has said he is not worried about his challengers, saying they are “not serious.”
“I think we have almost 200 people here, so he might have something to worry about,” said Ponkowski at the rally.
Amash also fired back at Trump Jr. on Twitter saying, “If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
The tweet referenced a 2016 email Trump Jr. sent, which is detailed in the Mueller report. Investigators say the email showed his willingness to meet with a Russian attorney to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Amash has not made his 2020 plans clear yet— he has not announced a re-election campaign and he has not sufficiently dissuaded rumors that he is pursuing a run for the White House as an independent.
Every time Amash is asked about a presidential campaign, he says he doesn’t “rule anything out.”
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