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Trump endorses former aide against pro-impeachment Republican

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE has thrown his support behind an ex-White House official running to unseat a House Republican who voted for impeachment, the first GOP primary challenge Trump has backed since leaving office.

Max Miller, a former aide to Trump, announced Friday that he is waging a primary challenge against Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezTrump looms large over GOP donor retreat in Florida Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Boehner throws support behind Republican who backed Trump impeachment MORE (R-Ohio), a two-term congressman who was among 10 House Republicans to vote for impeachment.

Miller, who hails from northeastern Ohio, worked on Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns and served in the White House’s office of presidential personnel and as director of advance. He specifically cited Gonzalez’s vote to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot when rolling out his campaign in Ohio’s 16th Congressional District.

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“I'm running for Congress to stand up for Northeast Ohioans. They overwhelmingly voted for the America First agenda. But their Congressman betrayed them when he voted to impeach President Trump. I won't back down. And I'll never betray them,” Miller tweeted.

In a press release announcing his bid, Miller also cast himself as a “steel-spined” leader who would stand up to “foreign adversaries, domestic profiteers, or anti-American ideologues.”

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Shortly after Miller’s campaign was launched, Trump offered up his endorsement — support that could pay dividends in a district the former president won by 16 points in 2016 and 15 points in 2020.

“Max Miller is a wonderful person who did a great job at the White House and will be a fantastic Congressman. He is a Marine Veteran, a son of Ohio, and a true PATRIOT. Current Rep. Anthony Gonzalez should not be representing the people of the 16th district because he does not represent their interest or their heart. Max Miller has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump said in a statement. 

Miller’s campaign and Trump’s endorsement underscore the electoral peril sitting lawmakers may face over past votes or any perception of disloyalty to the former president, who polls show remains popular within the GOP.

Gonzalez is the first sitting Republican Trump has come out against since he left office, though he has threatened to support primary challengers to other Republicans who either voted for impeachment or criticized him while in office.

GOP Reps. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneySunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Budowsky: Great for Dems: Trump dominates GOP MORE (Wyo.) and Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Kinzinger is first GOP lawmaker to call on Gaetz to resign Marjorie Taylor Greene rakes in over .2M in first quarter MORE (Ill.) have both already garnered a slew of Republican challengers and are both top targets for Trump.

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“Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First. We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership,” Trump said in a statement earlier this month. 

Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans to buck Trump by voting for his impeachment last month. The former president was impeached on one count of “incitement of insurrection” over his comments before the Jan. 6 riot that sought to halt Congress’s certification of the Electoral College results. 

The Ohio Republican was first elected to Congress in 2018, winning the open seat that year by more than 13 points. He was reelected last year by more than 26 points.

Despite his electoral success, Gonzalez suggested his impeachment vote could end his career in Congress. 

“You have to love your country and you have to adhere to your oath more strongly than you do your job, and I don't know what political fate will play out,” Gonzalez said earlier this month. “If my fate is ultimately that I don't get to come back, I will do that at peace.”