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Pushing back against Amash and impeachment, McCarthy falls short

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is siding against Justin Amash and presidential impeachment. He's just not doing it very well.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy prepares to speak to the media after unexpectedly dropping out of consideration to be the next Speaker of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, 2015. (Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy prepares to speak to the media after unexpectedly dropping out of consideration to be the next Speaker of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8, 2015.

On Saturday afternoon, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) became the first congressional Republican to endorse impeaching Donald Trump in response to the revelations in the Mueller report. Yesterday morning, Amash's ostensible leader, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) went after the Michigan congressman during an interview with Fox's Maria Bartiromo.

"What [Amash] wants is attention in this process. He's not a criminal attorney. He's never met Mueller. He's never met Barr. And now he's coming forward with this? Because this is what he wants. He wants a Sunday show to put his name forward with a question."It's really disturbing, because, when you watch on the floor, you could have a bill with 400 votes all supporting it. There will always be one opposed, and that will be Justin Amash."

Jon Chait went through McCarthy's argument in detail, but there were a couple of angles to this that stood out for me.

The first was the GOP leader's insistence that Amash has "never met" Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It's a curious argument, in large part because Republicans have argued of late that meeting Mueller is an unnecessary luxury: lawmakers have a redacted version of the special counsel's report, which in the GOP leaders' minds, means that Congress has all of the information it could possibly need.

Is it Kevin McCarthy's contention that it's important for members to engage Mueller directly? Because if so, that's both new and important.

The second is the Republican leader's point that Justin Amash is "not a criminal attorney." That's true. The Michigan congressman has a law degree from the University of Michigan, but as best as I can tell, he did corporate, not criminal, work as a practicing attorney.

But I'm not sure how that's relevant. The U.S. House is supposed to have 435 members, and in rare occasions, they're asked to consider articles of impeachment. Individual lawmakers are tasked with evaluating the evidence and drawing conclusions -- whether they have a background in criminal law or not.

That said, if McCarthy is interested in how some criminal attorneys feel about the Mueller report's findings, I can think of a few people whose perspectives the congressman might find interesting.

President Donald Trump would have been indicted for obstruction of justice in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation if he did not hold the nation's highest office, more than 500 former federal prosecutors argued in an open letter published on Medium on Monday.The ex-prosecutors – who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower – said Attorney General William Barr's decision not to charge Trump with obstruction "runs counter to logic and our experience."The letter added, "Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice."

As of this morning, the joint letter from former federal prosecutors has over 900 signatures.

Neal Katyal, the former acting solicitor general,told MSNBC's Ari Melber two weeks ago, "I've never seen anything quite like it.... [I]f this were anyone else but a sitting president, this person would be labeled a felon and staring down the barrel of a federal indictment."

I wonder if Kevin McCarthy has read the joint letter yet.