It was a friendly departure, he insisted to CNN afterward, never mind that the group which he helped found formally condemned him last month for concluding that Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice in the Russiagate probe were impeachable.

Amash claims he left because he didn’t want to be a “distraction.” A distraction from what? The Freedom Caucus is a small minority of the House minority. One reason why they’ve transformed from a group devoted to shrinking government into a group shilling for Trump in all things (which tracks the transformation of the wider GOP, but I digress) is that they have nothing better to do these days. The squabble with Amash is the first interesting thing to come out of the caucus since Pelosi took over.

He should have demanded that they vote to oust him. Why do them the favor of punishing himself for his own blasphemy?

“I have the highest regard for them and they’re my close friends,” [Amash] told CNN. “I didn’t want to be a further distraction for the group.”…

Amash, who was a founding member of the group, told CNN in March that he had stopped going to Freedom Caucus meetings after clashing for months with members over the group’s direction under Trump.

He told CNN he had attended a House Freedom Caucus board meeting before House votes on Monday night to announce he would step aside from both the board and the group as a whole. The other members didn’t know he would be going to the meeting…

He emphasized his decision was voluntary and that he remains on good terms with his colleagues.

He signed up for the Freedom Caucus, not the MAGA Caucus. Frankly, he should have left ages ago, although I assume he hung on in the expectation that Mueller’s verdict might help ease the tensions between him and his colleagues. If Mueller had come down firmly on Trump’s guilt, the caucus’s pushback on Amash’s impeachment call necessarily would have been more muted. If Mueller had come down firmly on Trump’s innocence, Amash himself might have dropped the Russiagate matter. Instead Mueller punted on obstruction, ensuring that the internal disagreement would linger.

Obvious question: Will Amash’s break with the Freedom Caucus end there or does the essence of his conflict with them compel him to leave the GOP too? If his rebuke of Trump is a facet of his discontent with the two-party system then it’s the logical next step. And the wider Republican caucus isn’t much less Trumpist than the Freedom Caucus itself is, after all. If Amash has decided that his position on Trump means he can’t in good conscience remain a member of a right-wing group that’s broadly aligned with him on limiting government — in theory, I should emphasize — then there’s no principled reason to remain a Republican either. There are pragmatic reasons to do so: Going independent means he’ll need to win a three-way House race next year and it’ll likely cost him his committee assignments, further reducing his influence over policy. Even if Amash is willing to continue to caucus with Republicans in hopes of retaining those assignments, it would please Kevin McCarthy’s friend Donald to see him humiliated by having them stripped.

But maybe Amash has resolved that he’s done with the GOP in its current incarnation and if that costs him his House seat, so be it. A man who wanted to stay in Washington forever wouldn’t have accused Trump of obstruction in the first place.

McCarthy was asked about Amash at this morning’s minority-leader press conference, incidentally, and gave a stupid answer:

Trumpists can hate the heretic privately as much as they like but the fact remains that Amash running for president as a libertarian would be an X factor in the 2020 campaign. He might not cost Trump many votes if he ran; he might even help Trump by giving right-leaning “Anyone But Trump” independent voters someone to vote for instead of the Democratic nominee. But it’s possible that he’d pull enough Trump-skeptic fiscal conservative righties away from POTUS to hurt him, especially in Amash’s crucial home state of Michigan. McCarthy and the rest of the party should be polite to him even in their disagreements and emphasize that he’s a Republican in good standing. Don’t give him more of a reason to leave and challenge Trump than he already has.