AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Michigan Congressman Justin Amash is the only congressional Republican to call for President Trump to be impeached, and today, he announced he is leaving the Republican Party. The congressman made the announcement in an op-ed in The Washington Post. He said that the two-party system is an existential threat to American principles and institutions. President Trump responded to Amash's departure from the party on Twitter, where he called it, quote, "great news."
Amash spent the day celebrating the Fourth of July in Grand Rapids. That's where Michigan Radio's Dustin Dwyer caught up with him. Hey there, Dustin.
DUSTIN DWYER, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.
CORNISH: So first of all, you physically caught up with the congressman, right? Where did you find him?
DWYER: Literally. Literally (laughter). I was following behind him at a parade, a neighborhood parade called the Hollyhock Lane Parade in Grand Rapids. As soon as the parade started, he slipped in, and I followed him down the street to ask a few quick questions about his op-ed.
CORNISH: What did you learn about why he's leaving the GOP?
DWYER: Well, he said - first off, he said, well, you'll have to read the op-ed. But I said, is this something you've been thinking about for a while? He said, yeah, I've been thinking about it. And I asked him, sort of importantly, does this mean you're still in the race for reelection for Michigan's 3rd Congressional District? And he said yes, even though he's leaving the party, he does plan to still be in the race to run for his seat again.
CORNISH: What's been the reaction in his district?
DWYER: Well, people have always had reactions to Justin Amash because he's always been a little bit outside of his own party. He calls himself often a Libertarian. One person shouted out at him this morning, Justin, I don't like you, but I admire your backbone. And there's a lot of Democrats who live in the city of Grand Rapids who feel that way, and a lot of Republicans who say, you know, we admire your principles, but we don't like your representation in Congress. So there's some respect for Amash, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all of these people will come out to vote for him.
CORNISH: You mention the idea of him running again. I understand he already has four primary challengers, right?
DWYER: Yeah, four people have jumped in on the Republican side. So it would have been a five-way race. Now those four challengers will have to fight it out for the Republican nomination for the primary. There's also one Democrat running, and we expect another announcement from another Democrat on Monday. So it will turn out to be a pretty crowded race for this congressional district, which has not been really a competitive district for a long time.
CORNISH: These days, every time there's a bold move by a politician, someone will say, oh, they're running. So...
CORNISH: ...Is there speculation that Congressman Amash might run for president?
DWYER: There's been lots of speculation, and he pointedly has not ruled out a run for president. Some people have said that he could run as a Libertarian. He does lean Libertarian. But today, when I asked him, he said he plans to run for the congressional district, and he can't run for both. So I would take that as a sign that at least for now he does not plan to run for the presidency.
But if he did jump in, I have to say, Donald Trump only won Michigan with less than 11,000 votes, so Amash may not be able to really win the presidency as a third-party candidate, but 11,000 votes is not a huge margin for the president, Donald Trump, and it's possible it could sway the Michigan election if he were to run for president.
CORNISH: That's Dustin Dwyer of Michigan Radio. Thanks for sharing your reporting.
DWYER: Thank you, Audie.
(SOUNDBITE OF SUFJAN STEVENS' "DETROIT, LIFT UP YOUR WEARY HEAD!") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.