CNN "Erin Burnett Out Front" - Transcript: "Interview with Rep. Justin Amash"



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT now, one of the Republicans who did break off. He's now an independent, Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, who supports impeaching the president. And when you made that choice, you had to, quote/unquote, break off,

as the president, I suppose, would describe it, Congressman.

Look, you used to be a Republican. You had to leave the party in July when you made it clear where you stood on impeachment.

Do you think when Trump talks like he did today, that he will get other Republicans to stay in line and back him?

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (R-MI): You know, I think that a lot of Republicans are scared of the president or they're at least scared of Republican primary voters. I had problems with the party going back for several years with the party system.

I think when the president says the Democrats are different, and they're vicious and they stick together, I think he's just -- you know, just talking. I think that Republicans have their own viciousness and their own sticking together that happens. And sometimes he just projects as well.

BURNETT: So, Republican, Congressman, you raise the point, you know, about people being afraid of their own voters. So, Congressman Rooney, you know him, of course. He says he's now open to impeaching the president. But then immediately after he said that, he said he's not going to run for re-election.

So, I guess my question to you is, can a Republican support impeachment and get re-elected as a Republican?

AMASH: I think so. It really depends on the context. If someone has been in office for several years, they could do that. And I could have run as a Republican in my district and won the district.

But I was really just tired of the two-party system and really think it's important to come to Washington and present an alternative to the two parties.

But I do think it's possible. The problem is that a lot of the Republican members haven't been here long enough or they spent so much time with their partisan nonsense over the years that it's really hard for them to win the trust of voters if they're going to break from the president. So, most of them will stay with him. And I would be surprised if, at this point, more than a couple of people broke off, if any.

BURNETT: OK, which is great context, because you would know this better than anyone. I mean, look, President Trump impugns the impeachment process every chance he gets -- as you know, I know, as everyone watching knows.

Here's what he said about it today.


TRUMP: It's so illegitimate. It cannot be the way the Founders, our great Founders, meant this to be. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And, Congressman, you're a lawyer. And you describe yourself as a strict constitutionalist. So, when the president of the United States describes this process as illegitimate and not what the great founders meant it to be, what do you respond?

AMASH: He's wrong. The process for impeaching the president is in the Constitution and that it's left up to the House to conduct the impeachment, which is like the indictment. And the Senate conducts the trial. And the House and Senate design their own rules for the process.

So, he's just wrong about it. It's' constitutional process. And I think again, he's lashing out at anything, and now, he's lashing out at the Constitution.

BURNETT: So, you served with the White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. I mean, you obviously know him pretty well. You were active members of the Freedom Caucus. So, you worked together.

And, look, he is struggling to explain why he clearly admitted, proudly admitted, a quid pro quo on Ukraine and then claimed he never said what he said, as you heard Chris Wallace say.

I mean, here is one of the president's biggest supporters, Sean Hannity, had to say about Mick Mulvaney.


SEAN HANNITY, "THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW": What is Mulvaney even talking about? I just think he's dumb. I really do. I don't think he knows what he's talking about. That's my take on it.


BURNETT: What's your take on it?

AMASH: Well, Hannity is wrong. Mick Mulvaney is a bright guy. In fact, he's one of the smartest members I've ever served with.

And he's a good guy. I like Mick a lot. We're friends.

But I think anyone working in this administration is going to have a hard time explaining what's going on. You're asking a lot of these officials to go out on stage and try to keep the stories straight.

So, I think Mick was as telling the truth there, that there was a quid pro quo. And then he went back and realized, oh, well, that's not what the president wants to hear.

BURNETT: And so -- and so, now, he's got to try to play cleanup. I mean, this is a problem. You're basically saying these guys, people around the president, are now being essentially -- they're forced to lie.

AMASH: Yes, and it's a shame. And I think they know better and I

think deep down, they wish they weren't, you know, trapped in this position. And I hear that from my colleagues on the House floor. I hear them talk about how they wish they weren't doing this.

And, frankly, I think a lot of the retirements that we hear about are people who are just trying to ride out this president and they might think of coming back into public office later on, once this president is gone.


BURNETT: President Trump also talked about Syria today. I know it's a topic you care deeply about, Congressman.

He said this about his decision to pull troops out of Syria.

Here's what he said about ISIS.


TRUMP: I'm the one that did the capturing. I'm the one who knows more about it than you people or the fake pundits.


BURNETT: Does he deserve the credit for the capturing of ISIS fighters?

AMASH: No. I mean, he is always taking credit for what our brave men and women in the armed forces are doing. And, you know, he has unleashed real problems right now by not planning ahead.

You know, I'm not for having our troops in Syria. I would have withdrawn the troops long ago if I were president. But I would have had a plan ahead of time to do it without creating chaos. And he didn't plan ahead at all.

BURNETT: All right. Congressman Amash, I appreciate your time as always. Thanks, sir.

AMASH: Yes, thanks so much, Erin.