GOP Rep. Justin Amash leaves far-right Freedom Caucus he helped found

Nicholas Wu

WASHINGTON — On Monday evening, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., resigned from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, a group of Republican lawmakers that he helped co-found in 2015. 

“I have the highest regard for them, and they’re my close friends. I didn’t want to be a further distraction for the group,” Amash told CNN's Haley Byrd, who first reported the departure on Monday evening. 

On Tuesday morning, Poppy Nelson, an Amash spokesperson, confirmed the resignation to USA TODAY.

More: GOP congressman: 'President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct'

Amash has been an outspoken libertarian voice during his four terms in Congress. His departure from the Freedom Caucus had been coming for some time, though. Politico reported on May 20 that the caucus voted to formally condemn him after he said President Donald Trump committed "impeachable conduct."

Here are five things to know about the self-proclaimed "#1 defender of liberty and the Constitution."

He helped found the conservative House Freedom Caucus

Amash was part of the wave of tea party Republican lawmakers swept into power in the 2010 election. He then joined nine other freshman Republicans to co-found the House Freedom Caucus. The Caucus became notorious for helping push out then-House Speaker John Boehner in October 2015. 

The group doesn't make its membership list public, so it is unclear exactly who is in it. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., says he serves as its current chairman. 

Trump has sparred with the group over the past two years, but in December 2018, they helped force the government into a shutdown over border wall funding. Politico reported Trump sided with the group's leaders over the objections of congressional Republican leaders and demanded that any government funding include appropriations for a border wall. 

More: What is the House Freedom Caucus and why is Trump attacking its members?

He was the first Republican to call for Trump's impeachment

Amash made headlines for becoming the first Republican member of Congress to call for Trump's impeachment.

In a Twitter thread in mid-May, Amash explained that he thought Trump had committed "impeachable conduct," alleging the president tried to obstruct justice during the investigation of former special counsel Robert Mueller. Trump lashed out at Amash in the following days, but Amash has held strong on his call for impeachment. 

He used to explain every vote on Facebook 

Amash famously explained almost every single vote that he took in Congress, from substantive votes on tax reform to symbolic votes on the naming of post offices. His office used to post explanations on his Facebook page, but it appears that they have stopped doing so.  

He cried when he missed his first vote in Congress

It is standard in Congress for members to miss votes every now and then to attend to matters in their districts or other issues. Not for Amash, though. He took pride in taking 4,289 consecutive votes in Congress before finally ending his streak in March 2017. When he finally did miss a vote, after a scheduling mishap, he cried

He was discussed as a potential presidential candidate

There's been some chatter about him running for president in 2020 as a libertarian, or to challenge Trump in the Republican presidential primary. 

In an op-ed on May 29, Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis wrote, "as a conservative who has grave concerns about Donald Trump, I’ve arrived at an unavoidable conclusion: it’s time to draft Justin Amash for president." Lewis went on to call for people to draft Amash into the race as a libertarian. 

Amash, for his part, hasn't entirely ruled out the possibility. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: GOP Rep. Justin Amash leaves far-right Freedom Caucus he helped found