Off message: A Republican takes heat for impeachment remarks

A Nevada Republican has learned that a remark even suggesting criticism of President Donald Trump will draw a sharp response from his supporters

"I'm a big fan of oversight, so let's let the committees get to work and see where it goes," Amodei said in the call.

The backlash is one gauge of the pressure rank-and-file Republicans face. House GOP leaders have aggressively defended Trump against accusations that he abused his power when he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden and his son. They've tried to shift the focus to Biden and dismiss the president's request as unimportant. Over the weekend, several of those defenses resulted in viral videos of Republicans dodging questions and uncomfortable interviews. Trump, meanwhile, has gone to new levels of outrage, suggesting the people leading the probe should be arrested and charged with treason.

For Republicans seeking to appear measured and who may need anti-Trump voters to win their elections, the safest move may be to keep the mess at a distance.

Amodei is not considered in danger in his northern Nevada district, which encompasses Reno and a swath of rural towns. Republicans make up 4 in every 10 voters in the district, while Democrats count every 3 voters out of 10. Last year, Amodei easily defeated a primary challenge from tea party favorite Sharron Angle and a general election challenge from former Obama administration official Clint Koble.

Still, the congressman has at times struggled to break from the president. In 2017, he initially opposed Republican plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, saying the plan would gut Medicaid funding for the state. He later decided to support the plan, saying that upon further research and conversations, he concluded that deep cuts would be avoided.

In his meandering remarks to reporters on Friday, Amodei said he does not think "at this point in time" that the president committed an impeachable offense but did not come down hard on the Democrats' probe.

A whistleblower complaint that touched off the controversy should be processed by "all the committees that have a dog in that fight for oversight," Amodei said.

His remarks in some ways echoed the name game Democrats played for months before the Ukraine scandal broke. Democrats claimed they had effectively launched an impeachment probe by conducting oversight investigations into Trump on a host of matters, even though none of those investigations carried the impeachment label. The argument was aimed at appeasing progressives in the party who wanted them to be more aggressive. On Friday, Amodei seemed to adopt that view, backing an investigation, just not an impeachment investigation.

The comments quickly prompted the congressman's phone call with McCarthy, as well as calls with No. 2 GOP House leader Steve Scalise and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Amodei issued a statement attempting to clarify his remarks, although he did not succeed. "In no way, shape or form did I indicate support for impeachment," he said. But he also said that the first news article that said he "supports the House's inquiry into whether President Donald Trump should be impeached" is "absolutely an accurate statement."

In a weekend interview with conservative Breitbart News, Amodei declared that he does not support the impeachment inquiry — but again reiterated that he felt the initial news article was fair and accurate.

Amodei's spokeswoman Logan Tucker said Amodei is "a process guy that doesn't get into 'inside-the-beltway' word semantics. From any logical standpoint, "inquiry", "process", and "fact finding" are interchangeable."

She noted the congressman voted twice last week in favor of a resolution officially disapproving of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to open an impeachment inquiry.

On the calls from party leaders she noted, "Everyone in leadership and in the administration that Mark has talked to heard him out."

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Associated Press writer Alan Fram in Washington contributed to this report.