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Over the weekend, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) penned a Twitter thread making the case for impeaching President Donald Trump based on the Mueller report.
Here are my principal conclusions:— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 18, 2019
1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.
2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.
4. Few members of Congress have read the report.
Hot on the heels of Amash’s stunning move to break ranks with his Republican brethren came two far more expected developments: The president called him a “lightweight” and “loser” on Twitter and a primary challenger emerged: state Rep. Jim Lower (R).
This cannot go unchallenged! I support @realDonaldTrump, I support West Michigan values, I support our party's values and I will have a major announcement regarding MI CD3 this week! pic.twitter.com/ooA9xxp6ws— Jim Lower (@RepJimLower) May 19, 2019
Who Is Jim Lower?
The 30-year-old Republican member of the Michigan House of Representatives is a hyper-partisan Trump supporter recently elected to his second term. He’s anti-regulation that restricts the freedom of businesses; pro-regulation that restricts the freedom of women over their bodies.
Since he was elected in 2016, Lower has consistently received high marks for toeing the party line, and even got an attaboy from the National Rifle Association, which gave the self-proclaimed “lifetime member” of the NRA an A-plus rating and endorsement.
Lower’s support of Trump is so unequivocal that on March 24, the very day Attorney General William Barr released his summary of the Mueller report, he took to Facebook to say that the four-page summary of the 448-page report was the equivalent of case closed.
With the Mueller report finally behind us, those who have been completely blinded by their hatred for President Trump...Posted by Representative Jim Lower on Sunday, March 24, 2019
“With the Mueller report finally behind us, those who have been completely blinded by their hatred for President Trump need to move on. Instead of focusing on turning people against the President and dividing our country, let’s focus on balancing the federal budget for the first time in nearly two decades. There are plenty of big issues like this that can be solved if we work together instead of continually trying to destroy people we dislike or disagree with,” he wrote.
It was later revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller wrote a letter to Barr in late March to complain that the summary “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of his report. Lower hasn’t had anything to say about that.
The redacted Mueller report was released on April 18. To date, the public still hasn’t seen the unredacted report.
He misrepresented his background.
Touting one’s blue-collar roots is de rigueur for politicians of all stripes. And Lower is no different. His campaign announcement and, until recently, his website trumpeted how he pulled himself up by the proverbial bootstraps.
He “paid for his own education and supported himself by working full-time while getting both his undergraduate and graduate degrees,” it said.
There’s just one little problem: That’s not technically true.
The Detroit News reported that on Monday family friend John Calley took to Facebook to call Lower out.
“Why does Lower say he paid for his own education when it was literally my pop who paid his tuition in full??? And to then pretend like he did it on his own??” Calley wrote.
Confronted with this non-truth, Lower blamed his team. As one does.
“John thanks for catching this. Your dad is a great guy, and I’ve always appreciated him helping me out when I really needed it my first year of college,” he replied on the post. “We’ll get it updated. I believe the team was trying to make the point that I come from a working class background. In the lead up to the announcement, it got missed.”
The story went on to report that Calley’s father paid for Lower’s first year of tuition as a loan, which he later forgave.
Lower later scrubbed his website of all biographical information. Someone should really tell him that running for Congress naturally generates a lot of scrutiny into your background.
Amash challenger @RepJimLower scrubs campaign website of bio information after being accused of misrepresenting how his college education was funded (the Calley clan of Ionia County is entangled in this story) https://t.co/noDpJlWOuC— Chad Livengood (@ChadLivengood) May 22, 2019
He’s utterly anti-choice.
Lower has led the charge to restrict Michiganders’ reproductive freedom. A resolution he sponsored earlier this year refers to abortion as “a tragic loss of human life,” conflates aborted embryos with “citizens,” lectures women on the proper reaction to terminating a pregnancy, and incorrectly states that there is “no medical reason” for third-trimester abortion, an exceedingly rare procedure only legal when the woman’s life is threatened or the fetus is nonviable.
Lower’s stance on this issue is the most extreme version of anti-choice. Even among those who oppose abortion, many believe it should be legal when a woman’s life is in danger, or if it will save her from carrying a fetus that will die before, during, or immediately after delivery.
“No matter the circumstances, when an abortion is performed, a human life has ended who is no different in his or her nature than every born citizen of this state,” the resolution reads.
“…[T]his legislative body recognizes abortion as a loss of human life and that such occurrences are never a cause for celebration and are always a cause for sadness and solemn reflection,” it states, in what can only be described as extreme mansplaining.
Lower wants to legalize hunting a protected species.
On the other hand, when it comes to sandhill cranes, Lower is most definitely pro-death. In fact, his second proposal after taking office in 2017 supported allowing hunting the long-protected creatures believed to be the oldest living bird species, which was nearly wiped out in the 20th century by overhunting.
His resolution claims that hunting is necessary because those pesky wild animals eat seeds.
While it is true that the cranes are enticed by freshly planted fields, for years farmers have been allowed to apply for permits to kill cranes that damage their crops. Not to mention that there are better, more environmentally friendly ways to address the issue than an open season on sandhill cranes.
“Recently seeded corn fields can be an attractive food source for cranes, but broadly reducing the crane population will not change that fact. However, newly developed, non-toxic chemical seed coatings have the potential to redirect sandhill cranes to consume insect pests in corn fields and avoid the seed, resulting in a win-win for farmers,” said Rachelle Roake, Michigan Audubon’s conservation science coordinator in an article published on the organization’s website.
Michigan Songbird Protection Coalition Director Julie Baker criticized Lower by name in an op-ed in which she accused him of using “smoke and mirrors” to try to drum up support for killing sandhill cranes. She wrote that he included a photo of the waterfowl swarming a tractor in a presentation to the House Natural Resources Committee. There was just one teensy problem.
“But the birds in the photo were not sandhill cranes; they were Eurasian cranes conditioned to actually feed from tractors. The caption in the USDA report that it was lifted from clearly identified the photo was taken in Israel—6,000 miles from Michigan,” Baker wrote.
When a reporter confronted him about these errors, Baker wrote that Lower was dismissive, saying, “Frankly, I don’t think it matters.”
The resolution ultimately failed.
But, just like those wacky Trump kids, Lower is not giving up on his dream of hunting a species still considered endangered in some states. He’s resubmitted the resolution this year.
In this most recent effort to legalize killing sandhill cranes for sport, Lower cherry picks his facts. His resolution claims that there was an estimated spring breeding population of 48,900 cranes according to the 2016 Michigan Breeding Waterfowl Survey, which is true. But it fails to mention that the survey estimated a year-over-year decrease from 2015 to 2016 of 66,100 breeding cranes, from 115,000 in 2015 to 48,900 in 2016.
Lower’s resolution also doesn’t mention that those poor farmers he’s ostensibly trying to help have legally killed roughly 1,000 sandhill cranes every year from 2011-2015, the most recent year for which data is available.
But why let facts get in the way of your desire to kill a creature that mates for life?
He’s got major beef with citizen ballot initiatives.
After Michigan voters passed a wave of progressive ballot initiatives in 2018 that included decriminalizing marijuana, expanding voter access, and creating an independent commission to investigate gerrymandering, Lower swooped to the rescue by proposing legislation (that then-lame duck Governor Rick Snyder later signed) which gravely restricted citizen ballot initiatives.
That bill requires that no more than 15% of signatures come from any one congressional district, and creates additional requirements that will make it far more difficult for citizens to make law.
In a story that claims the resolution makes Michigan ballot initiatives “nearly impossible” in the headline, a Detroit Metro Times reporter wrote, “It will especially limit petition circulators in urban areas because the congressional districts are gerrymandered and far more progressive voters in cities are packed into fewer districts.”
On a more positive front, Lower did support increased transparency for the state executive and legislative branches. And he has voted in support of energy efficiency initiatives enough that the Sierra Club graded him at 45% out of 100% for the 2017-2018 session, which is still pretty bad, but it’s five whole percentage points higher than the organization’s designated “pollution promoters.” So there’s that.
We could go on, about Lower’s support for controversial work requirements for Medicare recipients, or that he got behind then Gov. Snyder’s widely-criticized lame-duck signing of legislation creating three industry-stacked environmental review panels, or that he sponsored legislation overturning the executive order of Gov. Gretchen Whitner to dismantle what critics called “polluter panels.”
But you get the gist.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.