Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) answers a question during a town hall event in Grand Rapids, Mich., on May 28, 2019. (Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg News)

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) has never been afraid to go it alone. The self-styled libertarian regularly votes “present” if he feels legislation is misguided.

Last week, following many months of disenchantment with the group, Amash resigned from the House Freedom Caucus after being one of the founding members of the rabble-rousing group of conservatives that upended GOP politics for more than four years.

And Wednesday, Amash was the only Republican to support a committee vote that held Attorney General William P. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress over the administration’s refusal to turn over documents related to the 2020 Census.

The fifth-term lawmaker, part of the historic tea party-fueled class of 2010, does not view things any differently from his first years in Congress. He hasn’t changed. It’s that others have changed as the parties switched power in the White House and Congress, he says.

“People assume there’s some kind of strategy, like I’m behind the scenes trying to work with the Democrats on some of this stuff. I’m just a principled person who follows the Constitution, and I’m doing what I believe,” he said Thursday in an interview outside the Capitol after the House wrapped up votes for the week.

Now, after becoming the only Republican in Congress to support Trump’s impeachment, Amash heads into a lonely reelection battle in which the president and his family are signaling their support for a primary challenger. He traded insults with Donald Trump Jr. after the president’s son tweeted that he heard “Michigan is beautiful during primary season.”

“I love it especially later in the summer,” the lawmaker tweeted back, possibly referring to Michigan’s congressional primary in August 2020. Amash might also have been referring to Trump Jr.’s “later in the summer” response during the 2016 campaign when he was asked whether he was interested in damaging information from Russia about Hillary Clinton.

Amash is not the sort of lawmaker who will galvanize other Republicans to join forces with him in a new anti-Trump movement. He takes his own look at things and finds his own path toward decisions.

In a span of 24 hours, Amash supported one set of contempt charges against Trump administration officials, over the refusal to release documents about the addition of a citizenship question in the next census, but opposed another contempt vote. In that instance, the House voted to empower Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to go to court to enforce subpoenas against Barr and others — a move that Amash believed was delegating too much power to congressional leaders.

Amash could play a critical role in today’s politics if he is willing to stand and fight for his reelection as an anti-Trump Republican. Others have challenged the president on his willingness to defend white nationalists or on what seemed to some to be his effort to impede the special counsel investigation into his 2016 campaign and possible ties to Russian actors.

But those fierce GOP critics have left the stage. John McCain (R-Ariz.) died in August, and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) retired from the Senate rather than run in what would have been hotly contested Republican primaries.

Amash has already filed for reelection, something he does immediately after winning every two years. After declaring that Trump should be impeached on obstruction of justice charges, he returned home to a standing ovation at a town hall.

Still, in his philosophical way, he would not commit to running. “Anything is possible in life. What am I going to say? Anything is possible in life,” he said, then becoming upset when another reporter joked that Amash was leaving the door open to retirement. “I’m not saying that. Not saying that. That would be a mischaracterization of my position, but anything is possible in life. I don’t rule things out.”

Amash focuses first on process and whether there is an open, fair, deliberative effort on crafting legislation. He faults the Freedom Caucus as forgetting that its original causes were about forcing GOP leadership to allow more amendment votes and to move legislation through committees, not cobbling bills together in the speaker’s office and holding votes with little time for rank-and-file lawmakers to review them.

Instead, he says, the Freedom Caucus has become almost entirely about defending Trump.

“Well, I haven’t been attending meetings for a while, so I think people understood that I had some differences over the direction that was taken,” Amash said. “I think just the overall focus has shifted from a process-oriented caucus where we are trying to make sure that all the members are heard, to a caucus that is more about defending the administration.”

He is adamant that he remains on good personal terms with those conservatives. “I have good relationships with lots of people. Republican leadership have never liked me. That’s not surprising. That hasn’t changed. It’s not like they don’t like me more now,” he said.

Democrats know that Amash has not had a political conversion. They are not knocking on his door trying to get support for their initiatives. However, on constitutional issues related to Trump, his door is open.

Amash said he has been talking to Democrats on the Oversight Committee about their investigations into “the emoluments issue” related to Trump’s business benefiting as foreign governments pay for officials to stay at his hotels, and other benefits accruing to his family-run corporations.

Amash still wears a pin for the Liberty Caucus, which was a small group of mostly conservatives devoted to issues concerning freedom. But the group has not had a meeting since Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) became ill and then died in February. Several members of the caucus left Congress, among them Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who lost his primary last summer after being a fierce Trump critic.

“We’ve talked about maybe getting back together, but it’s hard to say who would be a member at this point,” Amash said.

On Thursday, during votes, Amash took his usual position on the center aisle of the House. A few feet away, the leaders of the Freedom Caucus chatted. He spent most of the time talking to a pair of younger Democrats, Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.).

Nothing had changed. He was in the same position he had always been, just everyone else had moved.

“I’ve sat there since my first year in Congress, so what’s happened is now there are more Democrats,” he said. “So, naturally, there’s just not enough space. They come over to our space, it’s inevitable.”

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