Freedom Caucus leaders vow to defend Amash

Leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus pledged Thursday to defend Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash if he faces a primary challenger, five days after a White House aide called for Amash’s defeat in 2018.

“Justin Amash is one of the most principled members of Congress,” Freedom Caucus co-founder and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan said Thursday during a POLITICO Playbook interview.

“If in fact there is a primary, I will do whatever I can to help him, and I think there are 30-some other members of the Freedom Caucus who will do the same. And frankly, a lot of people outside the Freedom Caucus will come and help him win that race, if it happens.”

Jordan’s pledge followed a Saturday tweet by President Donald Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino Jr., who said Trump “is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan,” and Amash is a “big liability,” urging “#TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.”

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, criticized the Scavino tweet.

“It was highly inappropriate for that to happen, and I’ve shared that with the administration,” Meadows said. “It’s one thing for the president to do that, and legally he’s allowed to do it. But it is very different for a staffer to use his official capacity to do that. It’s just inappropriate.”

An ethics watchdog group this week filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, urging it to investigate whether Scavino violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity by government employees. The White House has denied Scavino violated any laws.

Amash, who also spoke at the Playbook event, said he’s “not worried” about a potential challenger.

“My constituents know what I stand for,” he said. “They want someone who’s independent, who stands up for all of them, and someone who’s going to follow the Constitution, uphold the rule of law, defend liberty. And they have that person in Congress right now.”

The moderator noted that the Chamber of Commerce previously backed a primary candidate that tried and failed to unseat Amash.

“A lot of people have tried,” Amash responded, chuckling. “It didn’t work.”

In 2014, Amash survived a GOP primary challenge by Grand Rapids-area businessman Brian Ellis, winning by nearly 15 percentage points after Ellis spent $1.7 million and initially tried to portray the congressman as not conservative enough for his district.