Trump had repeatedly warned Republicans against backing the impeachment of Paxton, arguing it was a ‘very unfair process.”
Texas House votes to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton
The Texas House of Representatives voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton after allegations he misused his office and retaliated against others.
Patrick Colson-Price, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – In the hours before the GOP-controlled legislature in Texas voted to impeach fellow Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton over the weekend, former President Donald Trump repeatedly took to social media with a warning for anyone − and especially members of his own party − who opposed his longtime ally.
Trump lamented what he called the “very unfair process” used to oust one of the nation’s most active state legal officials and vowed that he would “fight” any lawmakers who supported the impeachment.
In the end, a majority of Texas Republicans in the state’s House of Representatives ignored the admonishments of a former president and party leader and voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton anyway. Of 85 Republicans in the chamber, 60 supported Paxton’s impeachment.
Impeached: Texas House impeaches AG Ken Paxton with overwhelming GOP support. Senate trial is next.
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The decision by many Republicans to wave off Trump’s warnings fueled questions about the former president’s political power in one of the nation’s reddest states. The episode comes as the field of candidates entering the race to challenge Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination grows.
A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump vows to ‘fight’ for ally Paxton. Will it matter?
- Paxton has been a nationally prominent conservative legal voice for years as well as an ally to Trump. In addition to filing high-profile suits against President Joe Biden over immigration and other issues, it was Paxton who brought an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the 2020 election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The nation’s highest court ultimately denied that request in late 2020.
- Leading up to Saturday’s impeachment, Trump took to his Truth Social platform to slam GOP lawmakers in Texas, encouraging them to let the voters decide Paxton’s fate, instead. “Hopefully Republicans in the Texas House will agree that this is a very unfair process that should not be allowed to happen or proceed,” he wrote. “I will fight you if it does.”
- The former president and other national conservative figures doubled down after the vote as focus in Texas shifted toward a Senate trial. Trump accused Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a fellow of Republican, of being “MISSING IN ACTION!” during the impeachment fight.
When all politics is both local and national
The battle between Paxton, a Republican former state lawmaker who was elected attorney general in 2014, and the GOP leadership in the Texas legislature has been driven by state politics and scandal. The attorney general has been caught up in multiple investigations of misusing his office and retaliating against whistleblower complaints.
“There’s a lot of history here that’s underneath the surface,” said Texas-based GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak.
A lot of that history has nothing to do with Trump, Mackowiak said.
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Still, Mackowiak said he was “surprised the House vote was so overwhelming” and predicted that the lawmakers “who voted to impeach are going to be on defense on this issue in GOP primaries around the state” next year.
Trump has support from more than half of his party in the race for the GOP nomination, according to a CNN poll this month. Trump is also beating Biden in polling ahead of the 2024 general election.
Trump’s performance in last year’s midterm elections was spotty in contested races. Many far-right candidates lost, including Doug Mastriano, a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, and Blake Masters, who ran for Senate in Arizona.
The internecine strife in Texas wasn’t limited to Trump and the state lawmakers. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, wrote on Twitter Saturday that the impeachment was a “travesty” and claimed that no other attorney general had “battled the abuses of the Biden admin more ferociously.” Matt Rinaldi, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, thanked Trump and Cruz in a statement for standing against what he called a “sham of an impeachment.”
What happens with Paxton now?
The impeachment, only the third in Texas history and the first in nearly 50 years, removed the 60-year-old attorney general from office pending a trial in the Senate. An interim replacement must be named by Abbott.
The House vote to impeach is analogous to a grand jury indictment in a criminal case. Paxton’s permanent removal from office would require a two-thirds vote in the 31-member Senate. Paxton, a former member in the House and the Senate, served alongside 21 current senators.
Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate 19 to 12. One of the Republican members is Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton. It’s not immediately clear when the Senate will hold the trial. Mackowiak predicted Paxton would survive the trial as long as more state GOP leaders don’t step in against him.
“Ultimately, I think removal is unlikely, unless the governor and lieutenant governor both call for it,” he said.
Contributing: Austin American-Statesman