Former President Donald Trump celebrated the retirement of a Republican congressman who voted for his impeachment, as the GOP continues its purge of those who have pushed back against lies surrounding the 2020 election.
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, told the New York Times he would not be running for reelection in 2022, citing threats to his family and a tough primary race against a Trump White House aide challenging him who has the former president’s endorsement.
“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” Gonzalez told the Times, referring to Trump. “Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal.”
The outgoing congressman, who turns 37 this week, called Trump “a cancer for the country.”
Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the violence of Jan. 6. He is the first of those Republican lawmakers to announce his retirement.
A former star wide receiver at Ohio State University, Gonzalez said in a Jan. 13 statement after his vote that Trump “helped organize and incite a mob” that attacked Congress and “abandoned his post while many members asked for help, thus endangering all present.”
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Jim Renacci, chair of the Medina County Republican Party in Ohio, told BuzzFeed News he was “slammed with residents calling for Anthony Gonzalez to step down, be recalled, and/or primaried.”
Following Gonzalez’s announcement of his retirement on Thursday, Trump called the impeachment vote “ill-informed and otherwise very stupid” and affirmed his endorsement for Max Miller, the former aide who was running for the seat in northeast Ohio. The former president added in an emailed statement, “1 down, 9 to go!”
Attention now turns to the remainder of the Republicans who stood against him. A top target is Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, whose vote for impeachment and insistence that the 2020 election was not stolen has already resulted in her ouster from the House GOP leadership.
Trump recently endorsed a Wyoming attorney running against Cheney in the Republican primary. Like Cheney, Gonzalez is a conservative who voted for the vast majority of Trump’s agenda, only to turn on him after the Jan. 6 riot.
Polling has consistently shown that a majority of Republicans believe President Biden stole the 2020 election, a baseless claim propagated by Trump and his allies.
Conspiracy theories regarding the election continue to have real-world consequences. For example, Republican lawmakers across the country have passed restrictions since last November that make it more difficult to vote, arguing that such moves are necessary to restore faith in elections whose legitimacy they themselves have undermined. A number of Republicans who have stated that they believe the election was stolen are now running for the top election offices in their states.
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