A Republican congressman supports an “oversight process" to determine whether President Trump broke the law when he asked a foreign leader to look into a political opponent’s activities.

Just don’t call it an impeachment inquiry.

Rep. Mark Amodei of Nevada used language during a phone call with reporters on Friday night that suggested he supported the Democrats’ investigation into Trump.

“Let’s put it through the process and see what happens,” Amodei said, according to the Nevada Independent. "I’m a big fan of oversight, so let’s let the committees get to work and see where it goes.”

“Using government agencies to, if it’s proven, to put your finger on the scale of an election, I don’t think that’s right,” he added. “If it turns out that it’s something along those lines, then there’s a problem.”

But after news outlets began reporting that Amodei was the first House Republican to side with Democrats on opening an impeachment inquiry, Amodei and his staff pushed back — hard. Sure, they argued, the congressman wanted to find out what occurred between Trump and the Ukrainian president. But that’s not the same as wanting the House to begin impeachment proceedings.

Here's how congressional Republicans reacted to news of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. (Zach Purser Brown/The Washington Post)

To some, it’s a distinction without a difference. But for Republicans in Congress, it underscores the delicacy of this moment as they balance their allegiance to Trump with their constitutional duties.

For Amodei, who is in his fourth full term in Congress — he won a special election in September 2011 and has easily won reelection since — that tension revealed itself in real time.

Referencing the Trump situation on Friday, Amodei said to “put it through the process.” He also said that he’s a “big fan of oversight,” and that “the committees” should "get to work and see where it goes.”

To many, including the reporters on the call, that sounded a lot like an endorsement of the Democrats’ investigation. News outlets from Fox News to the New York Times ran headlines saying he’d come out in support of an impeachment inquiry.

His Wikipedia page now includes the line: “On 27 September 2019, Amodei became the first Republican member of Congress to back an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.”

Amodei’s office went into damage control, quickly issuing a statement denying that the congressman was advocating for an impeachment inquiry. He was, he said, referring to his vote to give the whistleblower complaint against Trump to the intelligence committees to vet. That action was supported unanimously in the House and Senate.

“I now have a full appreciation of how the president feels," Amodei said in an apparent dig at the news media.

The Washington Post obtained video of President Trump giving a private speech to U.S. diplomats on Sept. 26. (Obtained by The Washington Post)

Amodei’s office also pointed to the congressman’s support twice in the past week for a resolution offered by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) expressing disapproval of how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) began an impeachment inquiry without a formal vote in the House. Those resolutions were backed by every Republican and voted down by every Democrat.

When asked to clarify the congressman’s position further, Amodei spokesman Logan Tucker said that the difference between backing an oversight process and supporting “Pelosi’s inquiry” is that “then you stand with the 223 Democrats who have made clear that if we were to vote right this second today to impeach Trump, they would vote yes before any sort of process has transpired. Again, prior to any such process playing out, the congressman does not support impeachment in any way, shape or form.”

But 223 Democrats don’t support impeaching Trump without a process. In fact, of the 224 House Democrats who support an inquiry, just 28 say they would impeach the president right now.

When that was pointed out, Tucker reiterated Amodei’s support for the resolution releasing the whistleblower complaint and said, “Supporting a process to get to the bottom of what happened in this instance is, yes, something Mark supports right now. I obviously can’t speak for any other Democrats on this issue, only what Mark supports … which is an oversight process.”

Just don’t call it an impeachment inquiry.