Justin Amash announces presidential exploratory committee

"Americans are ready for practical approaches based on humility and trust from the people," he said in the announcement. "We are ready for a presidency that will restore respect for our constitution and bring people together. I am excited and honored to take these first steps toward serving Americans of all backgrounds as president."

His potential entry into the race comes after more than a year's consideration.

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In recent days, it became clearer that Amash would likely launch a campaign for the presidency. Earlier this month, he said he looked "carefully" at a bid, and two weeks ago he said in a statement that he was actively fighting for his house in mid-February while considering jumping into the presidential election.

He faced a tough reelection in Michigan's 3rd District. National Republicans were eager to defeat him, and several Republicans have run for the seat.

If he is to take part in the presidential election, Amash must win the Libertarian Party nomination at their convention in Austin, Texas, which is now set for the end of May. This timing may change depending on the coronavirus pandemic.

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Although a third-party candidate is unlikely to win the presidency, a high-profile third-party competitor has the potential to reshape the race. In 2016, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, was on the ballot in each state, winning just over 3% of the national vote.

Whether a strong Amash showing on Election Day could hurt the Republican candidate or Democratic candidate any more is unclear.

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President Donald Trump has consistently achieved high approval ratings among the overwhelming majority of self-identified Republicans throughout his presidency, but Amash could win support among traditional Republican or conservative voters dissatisfied with Trump. He can also appeal to progressive voters who are not happy with Joe Biden's candidacy and agree with Amash on issues such as civil rights and foreign policy.

Amash was first elected to represent Michigan's 3rd Congressional District in the Tea Party Wave in 2010. A traditional libertarian, he separated many of his House Republican colleagues from the outset, against expansive federal surveillance forces and US intervention abroad.

Over the years, Amash has consistently been willing to take controversial votes according to his view on limited government, and has often been one of the only House members to vote against legislation with broad bipartisan support, such as a February anti-riot bill.

In 2015, Amash was one of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus, an influential group of hardline conservatives who backed House Republican leadership and pushed for a more open legislative process and limited federal spending. During Trump's first two years in office, it became clear that Amash – a vocal Trump critic – and his Freedom Caucus ally who is known today for being one of the president's most eager supporters in Congress – had different priorities.

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He made waves in May last year when he announced his support for admitting Trump over the findings of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He was the first and only House Republican to support the poll, and ultimately voted for both the articles of detention against the president as an independent late last year. In early June, not long after he went wrong, he resigned from the House Freedom Caucus and the HFC board, telling CNN at the time that he did not want "to be a further distraction for the group."

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On July 4 last year, Amash announced he was leaving the Republican Party for good.

"The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual freedom – principles that had made the American dream possible for my family," he wrote in a Washington Post edition. "In recent years, however, I have been disliked by party politics and frightened by what I see of it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions."

Amash, 40, is the son of a Syrian immigrant mother and a Palestinian refugee father. Prior to joining Congress, he worked as an attorney for the family business and served a term from 2008-2010 at the Michigan State House.

In recent days, he has criticized the president's comments on federalism amid the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, Trump said at his daily press conference when discussing states that remain locked in that "when any president of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it should be."

"Americans who believe in limited government deserve another alternative," Amash said of Trump's remarks.

Amash has repeatedly told reporters that he would only run for president if he thought it was a road to victory. In March 2019, he told CNN he never stops thinking of opportunities like posing for president "because there is a big problem with the current bipartisan system we have, and some have to shake it up."

"Is it possible for someone to shake it and make a difference?" he asked at that time. "I do not know."

This is a groundbreaking story and will be updated.

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