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Palestinian-American Congressman Justin Amash hints at 2020 presidential run

The ex-Republican legislator has been a vocal critic of the US president
Amash faced racial abuse on social media after calling for impeaching Trump (AFP/File photo)
By Ali Harb in Washington

Independent Congressman Justin Amash, who is of Palestinian descent, has suggested that he may run for president, sparking a debate on whether his possible candidacy would harm or benefit US President Donald Trump's reelection campaign.

On Monday, Amash, of Michigan, said on Twitter that he was looking "closely" at a possible presidential run.

The Congressman, who left the Republican party last year after calling for Trump to be impeached following the release of the Mueller report, had been the most vocal GOP critic of the US president.

"Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option," Amash wrote on Twitter on Monday in rebuke of Trump's assertion that the president had "absolute authority".

Conservative activist Hannah Cox responded by saying, "Please be you", to which Amash replied, "Thanks. I’m looking at it closely this week."

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Amash left no room for interpretation of that exchange on Wednesday, confirming that he is considering a presidential run.

"In mid-February, Justin Amash paused active campaigning for his congressional seat to carefully consider a presidential run," his office said in a statement.

"He has been discussing the potential campaign with his family, his friends, his team, and others, and a decision can be expected soon."

The congressman's comment on Monday had instantly ignited a discussion on how an Amash candidacy would affect the presidential race. 

Supporters of the idea argued that the ex-Republican would provide an alternative to conservatives who opposed Trump's erratic impulses. Detractors expressed fears that Amash would divide the opposition to the US president and siphon votes away from the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.

"Donald Trump wouldnt [sic] lose a single voter to Justin Amash... Joe Biden would lose a few though," conservative comedian Tim Young wrote on Twitter.

The son of a Palestinian refugee father and a Syrian mother, Amash is a libertarian who advocates limited government and a strict application of the US Constitution.

If he decides to run, the Michigan congressman may go for the nomination of the Libertarian Party, which has not settled on a nominee ahead of its convention next month.

'I'm proud of my heritage'

Although he does not present his Arab identity at the forefront of his political career, Amash has not shied away from discussing his ethnicity. Last year, he corrected Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Twitter when she said that Rashida Tlaib was the first Palestinian-American member of Congress.

"My father is Palestinian, and I've been in Congress since 2011," Amash wrote at the time.

"I should add that my mother is Syrian! I'm proud of my heritage on both sides, though I more often have mentioned my father’s background because he was a refugee."

The congressman did not support Trump in the 2016 elections and criticised the Republican president early in his presidency despite being a member of his party. 

When Amash came out in favour of impeaching the president, he faced a barrage of racial abuse from Trump's supporters on social media. 

Unlike Tlaib, Amash has not been vocal in criticising Israel and promoting Palestinian rights. Still, he has cast many votes against pro-Israel measures in the House of Representatives. 

Early in 2017, he was one of four Republicans to reject a congressional resolution rebuking then-President Barack Obama over refusing to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. The measure passed in a 342-80 vote with the support of most Democrats. 

Last year, he voted "present" on a House resolution condemning the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which ended up passing with overwhelming bipartisan support.

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