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Nicola Sturgeon accused of using Covid at 'every turn' as smokescreen for SNP failures

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NICOLA STURGEON is using coronavirus at every turn as a smokescreen for a litany of SNP failures, according to an MSP.

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Threats linger over members of Congress as a Trump adversary calls it quits

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CLEVELAND — For 20 years, nothing could stop Anthony Gonzalez.

He was a speedy wide receiver at St. Ignatius High School, one of Cleveland’s prep football powerhouses. He was a star at Ohio State. And then he went to the NFL as a first-round draft pick who caught passes from Peyton Manning before injuries derailed his promising career.

Even then, Gonzalez kept on going: MBA at Stanford University, job in Silicon Valley and a return home for a successful congressional bid. With his local sports celebrity and Cuban American lineage in a Republican Party starved for diversity, he seemed destined for a much longer run in politics.

It wasn’t to be. Gonzalez, whose vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump isolated him from all but nine of his House GOP colleagues, announced last week that he will not seek re-election in 2022. His two terms will clock in a year shy of his five-year NFL tenure.

Gonzalez, 37, cited his desire for a “fuller family life” and also the “toxic dynamics inside our own party” as the primary factors in his decision. Those factors intersected profoundly after he voted to hold Trump responsible for the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. A former pro athlete accustomed to hometown hero status had to adjust to threats and extra security when passing through Cleveland’s airport with his wife and two young children.

“This is a guy who had a really bright future,” said Steve Stivers, a former Ohio congressman who led the House Republicans’ campaign arm in 2018 when Gonzalez won his seat. “To realize that he decided it’s not worth it, unfortunately, is a statement that might be bigger for our country right now. … It says something very troubling for the future of our republic.”

Threats against members of Congress spiked earlier this year, following the violence of Jan. 6 and public vows by Trump and his allies to punish Republicans detractors and others who don’t parrot their baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen. The office of the House Sergeant at Arms has sent emails reminding members of security resources available to them, while also encouraging them to coordinate with local law enforcement when returning home to their districts.

Gonzalez, “like me and like a lot of my colleagues … has very serious security concerns, and both of us have young kids,” Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, a friend of Gonzalez’s who played against him in the NFL, said last week on MSNBC. “These are conversations that they have in other countries, where if you’re serving in office, you may have to worry about some kind of political violence descending upon you. That shouldn’t be something that happens in the United States.”

The threats and harassment have escalated over the last decade, dating to the 2011 shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, then a Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, during a public event outside a supermarket. In 2017, a shooter in Alexandria, Virginia, opened fire on Republicans practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, injuring Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and others.

Stivers, who resigned his House seat this year to run the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, received death threats against him and his family in 2017. He said his decision to leave Congress wasn’t so much about safety concerns as it was about being at home more with his wife and two children.

“I will say, over the last few years, the way people interact and treat their elected officials has changed,” said Stivers, who briefly considered running for Senate next year. “There’s been this idea that if you can be rude to people on social media, you can be rude to their face, too. And it just makes it harder to be a servant leader.”

Gonzalez is the first of the pro-impeachment House Republicans to announce his departure. Others, like Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — who lost her caucus leadership post over her vote — show no sign of retreating even as Trump encourages primary challengers.

Personal security is a sensitive topic for members as they work to keep themselves and their families safe. Through his staff, Gonzalez declined to elaborate on threats he has faced or precautions he has taken. Aides to the other pro-impeachment Republicans declined or did not respond to requests to discuss how they handle such matters.

“It’s one thing to wake up one day and see some negative ads against you — it’s another to worry about your safety and your family’s safety,” said one veteran Ohio Republican who requested anonymity to express sympathy for Gonzalez without publicly taking sides in a major GOP dispute.

“I think that political criticisms ought to focus on people’s votes and the leadership they are or are not showing,” added the Republican, who had no direct knowledge of threats against Gonzalez. “Not going to people’s houses. Not threats online.”

Gonzalez was facing at least two primary challengers in Ohio’s 16th District, including Max Miller, a former Trump White House and campaign aide who jumped into the race after the impeachment vote and quickly scored the former president’s endorsement. Gonzalez remained unapologetic and for months telegraphed no plans to step aside. He had outraised Miller, and some GOP activists in the state thought he had a decent chance of winning.

“I’ve never thrown in the towel in anything,” Gonzalez told NBC News in February. “So I don’t know why I’d start.”

But Trump and his allies kept the pressure on. In June, Miller opened a Trump rally just outside the district by leading the crowd of thousands in a hostile chant of “Tony’s gotta go!” before charging that “Turncoat Tony betrayed us.” When Trump took the stage, he called Gonzalez “a fake Republican and disgrace to your state.”

Close allies disowned Gonzalez. The Ohio Republican Party censured him and demanded his resignation. Within an hour of his announcement that he wouldn’t seek re-election, the leader of a suburban GOP club who led the censure charge was on Twitter taking victory laps.

In an interview Friday with WKYC Channel 3, NBC’s Cleveland affiliate, Gonzalez emphasized the family considerations and a desire to be a more present husband and father. The former St. Ignatius Wildcat and Ohio State Buckeye added that “Northeast Ohio is always home” and didn’t rule out running for office again — but not likely until his kids are older.

“If I’m not willing to put my family first,” he wondered, “then what good am I?”



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Trump pushes for election audit in Texas, a state he won

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Former President Donald Trump is pushing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for an “audit” of the 2020 election results in state he won handily, the latest move in his continuing efforts to undermine faith in the results of a presidential election he lost by millions of votes.

“Despite my big win in Texas, I hear Texans want an election audit!” Trump wrote in a letter to his close ally Abbott that was made public by Trump’s political action committee Thursday.

“You know your fellow Texans have big questions about the November 2020 Election,” the letter said. Trump has been stoking those doubts by continuing to falsely claim the election was “rigged” and “stolen” from him despite no evidence of any widespread fraud.

Trump, who has not ruled out running for president again in 2024, has continued to publicly question the results in states he lost by narrow margins — he sent a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger last week demanding he decertify his loss there — but the request for an audit in a state he won by a 600,000 vote margin over Joe Biden is a new tactic.

It comes as the former president’s supporters have been pushing for audits and reviews of areas he won by blowout margins in hopes of unearthing fraud. An NBC News review earlier this week found a push to revisit November’s results is underway or being called for in at least nine counties Trump won by more than 24 points.

Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The Texas governor is up for re-election in 2022 and already trying to fend off conservative critics and primary opponents.

“Texas needs you to act now,” Trump declared in the letter to Abbott.

Trump urged that legislation be passed in the current special session called by the governor, calling it “the perfect, and maybe last, opportunity to pass this audit bill.” The bill would make it easier for candidates and county chairs to demand audits if they’re skeptical of the results. It was sponsored by a state House Republican who unsuccessfully tried to sue to invalidate ballots cast in 2020 by drive-through, Steve Toth.

“Your citizens don’t trust the election system, and they want your leadership on this issue, which is the number one thing they care about,” Trump wrote to Abbott.

Toth tweeted his thanks to the former president for his support, adding the hashtag “AuditAll50States.”

Responding to Trump’s letter to him, Raffensperger told MSNBC on Wednesday that it’s well past time to move on.

“At the end of the day, it’s been 10 months now and I think I – I’m alarmed and I think most people are alarmed that we’re still talking and still facing these issues of election disinformation, misinformation. It really at the end of the day hurts the social fabric of our nation,” he said.



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