A week after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, there are as many House Republicans supporting the effort as you might expect: zero. That’s actually down one from last Friday, when Nevada Republican Mark Amodei made headlines as the first member of the House Republican caucus to back the inquiry.
But the backlash was swift, and the moderate Republican, who serves as Trump’s campaign chair in Nevada, has repeatedly clarified his remarks in an attempt to thread what’s becoming an impossible needle for some Republican lawmakers.
The trouble for Amodei started Friday when he told reporters that it makes sense for Congress to look into the whistle-blower’s complaint regarding Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine’s president. “Listen, I want to see what the process produces,” he said. “And quite frankly, if there’s something there that rises to that level, then guess what, that’s not something that we can have by a Democrat or a Republican.”
“Using government agencies to, if it’s proven, to put your finger on the scale of an election, I don’t think that’s right,” he added. “If it turns out that it’s something along those lines, then there’s a problem.”
The headlines declaring Amodei the first backer of the impeachment inquiry followed.
But the reaction from Team Trump was not far behind. On Twitter, Amodei was called a “traitor” and a “chicken shit RINO.” Corey Lewandowski tweeted that it’s time for a Trump “supporter to challenge Amodei in a primary.” And before Friday was over, Amodei was on the phone with acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney explaining his position. He spoke with House Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise too. Then he put out a statement that included the quote: “In no way, shape, or form, did I indicate support for impeachment.”
On Saturday, Amodei sought to further clear his name in an interview with Breitbart News. He repeatedly said he does not support an “impeachment inquiry,” but he does support congressional investigations into the whistle-blower’s complaint. Which is to say, he supports what many House Democrats do, an investigation of Trump’s action related to Ukraine that will inform a vote on articles on impeachment.
But this is an increasingly untenable position for Republicans. If they express any concerns over the whistle-blower complaint that Trump has trashed, or the phone call that Trump has deemed “beautiful,” they’ll be pegged as supporting an impeachment inquiry. And so most Republicans have chosen two paths to avoid the headlines Amodei got — echo Trump, or say nothing at all.