CNN "The Lead with Jake Tapper" - Transcript: Interview With Rep. Justin Amash

Interview

Date: Jan. 15, 2020

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Joining me now is Congressman Justin Amash, an independent, the only non-Democrat to vote in favor of sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate earlier today.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

There was discussion about you being an impeachment manager, considering your unique position as a former Republican.

Congressman Dean Phillips, a Democrat, said: "I'm disappointed that congressman Justin Amash is not among the managers. As an attorney, former Republican and the only independent member of the House of Representatives, he has articulated the constitutional rationale for impeachment as well as anyone in Congress, and his absence is a missed opportunity for a bipartisan management team."

Did Democratic leaders ever talk to you about possibly being an impeachment manager?

REP. JUSTIN AMASH (I-MI): Well, first, I appreciate the kind words from Dean.

But, no, I never was contacted by any of the Democratic leadership.

TAPPER: Would you have been one if they had asked?

AMASH: I would have had the conversation with the speaker if she wanted to have that discussion. And then we could have talked about the role and whether I would accept that role.

But, without that conversation, I couldn't say.

TAPPER: How strong do you think the case is against the president for removal from office in the Senate?

AMASH: I think it's a very strong case, if the senators are willing to listen.

So, we should have a Senate trial that is a full and fair trial. And people should be allowed to call witnesses. And I think both sides should be able to call witnesses and make the case for their side.

[16:05:08]

TAPPER: Do you think that both sides should be allowed to call witnesses, even if that were to include Republicans calling Joe Biden, Hunter Biden or the whistle-blower as witnesses?

AMASH: I think, if they feel a particular witness is relevant to the case, they should be allowed to call that witness.

Normally, in a court, you might have a judge who would make a determination about relevance. But, here, you're going to have the chief justice. I don't know that the chief justice is going to get really involved in that. But I do think that, if they can make the case that any of those

individuals is relevant to the case, they should be allowed to call those individuals.

TAPPER: I suppose they would make the argument that the whistle- blower obviously is the one that prompted all this and, in some cases, claims to have firsthand information, was never interviewed by the House, and that the Republicans making the argument that President Trump was really actually sincerely concerned about corruption in Ukraine, that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden and what happened in Ukraine or what didn't happen is relevant.

Would you vote for something like that, as long as other witnesses such as Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, people from OMB were also called?

AMASH: I think, if they can make a credible claim that those are relevant witnesses, then, yes, I'd make that trade.

I'd be willing to accept some of those witnesses in exchange for people like Bolton and Mulvaney and others.

TAPPER: What do you make of your former Republican colleagues arguing that President Trump was sincerely deeply concerned about corruption in Ukraine?

AMASH: Well, there's no evidence of that.

I mean, Ukraine had received money previously. This seems like something that he brought up because we were in the midst of the start of a presidential election campaign, and he clearly wanted to go after Joe Biden.

And he was asking for a favor from Ukraine to help him personally.

TAPPER: When talking about the war powers resolution and the president not notifying Congress about Iran, you said something interesting to "Rolling Stone."

You said -- quote -- "On order nary legislative matters, most members of Congress don't think anymore. They just follow whatever they're told by their leadership."

Do you -- that's kind of a describing a mindless partisanship. Do you see it when it comes to impeachment? Do you see it on one side more than the other?

AMASH: I think it's worse on the Republican side, but I do see it on both sides.

I think that, if the roles were reversed, if you had a Democratic president, you would see a lot of Democrats, maybe not all the Democrats, but you would see a lot of Democrats defending the president.

So I do see this sort of mindlessness. And it's easy to say, well, if we were in charge, we wouldn't do the same thing, whether it's one side or the other. But I have been here for enough years to see that partisanship really runs rampant here on both sides.

TAPPER: I have to say, just as an American, just as somebody who wants to know what happened with this story, I find it incredible that there are people in Congress who don't want to hear from John Bolton, who don't want to hear from Lev Parnas, who don't want to find out what happened, whether it exonerates the president or not.

What do you say to your former Republican colleagues, still colleagues, but you're no longer a Republican, when they say they don't want that?

AMASH: Well, our job is to find truth for the American people. It's not to root for one side or the other. It's not to root for the president or for Republicans or for Democrats.

We're here to stand up for the American people and find truth and defend justice. And it's the job of our House members and also of the senators to go and do justice and impartial justice.

TAPPER: Is your job a lonely one these days, sir?

AMASH: In many respects, yes.

I mean, it's tough here, with all the partisanship that goes on. But I I'm happier now than I have ever been, as an independent, and I believe I'm doing the right thing, representing my district as an independent.

And I wish more members of Congress would do the same thing, follow the Constitution and represent their constituents.

TAPPER: Independent Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it, sir.

AMASH: Thanks, Jake. Appreciate it.

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