WASHINGTON — In the hours before the GOP-controlled legislature in Texas voted to impeach fellow Republican attorney general Ken Paxton, 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 last weekend to oust one of the nation’s most active state legal officials and vowed he would “fight” all lawmakers who supported impeachment.
In the end, a majority of Texas Republicans in the state House of Representatives ignored warnings from a former president and party leader and voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton anyway. Of 85 Republicans in the chamber, 60 supported impeachment of Paxton.
Indicted: Texas House impeaches AG Ken Paxton with overwhelming GOP support. The Senate trial is next.
Vote: Here’s how Texas lawmakers voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton
The decision by many Republicans to rescind Trump’s warnings has fueled questions about the former president’s political power in one of the nation’s reddest states. The episode comes as the number of candidates entering the race to challenge Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination grows.
A Trump spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump vows to “fight” for his ally Paxton. Will it matter?
Paxton has been a prominent conservative legal voice nationally for years as well as an ally of Trump. In addition to filing high-profile lawsuits against President Joe Biden over immigration and other issues, it was Paxton who filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging Georgia’s 2020 election results. , Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The highest court in the country finally rejected this request at the end of 2020.
Ahead of Saturday’s impeachment, Trump took to his Truth Social platform to criticize GOP lawmakers in Texas, encouraging them to let 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 continue,” he wrote. “I will fight you if that’s the case.”
The former president and other national conservative figures doubled down after the vote as attention in Texas turned to a Senate trial. Trump accused Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a member of the Republican Party, of being “MISSING IN ACTION!” during the impeachment struggle.
When all politics is both local and national
The battle between Paxton, a former Republican lawmaker elected attorney general in 2014, and the GOP leadership in the Texas legislature has been driven by politics and state scandal. The attorney general has been caught up in multiple investigations into the misuse of his office and retaliation against whistleblower complaints.
“There’s a lot of history here that’s below the surface,” said Texas-based GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak.
Much of this story 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 lawmakers “who voted for impeachment will fight back on this issue in the statewide GOP primaries.” next year.
Trump has the support of more than half his party in the GOP nomination race, according to a CNN poll this month. Trump is also beating Biden in the polls 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 infighting in Texas has not been limited to Trump and state lawmakers. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the impeachment was a “travesty” and claimed no other attorney general had “fought harder against the abuses of the Biden administrator.” Matt Rinaldi, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, thanked Trump and Cruz in a statement for their position against what he called a “sham impeachment”.
What’s going on 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 appointed by Abbott.
The House impeachment vote is analogous to a grand jury impeachment in a criminal case. Permanent impeachment of Paxton would require a two-thirds vote in the 31-member Senate. Paxton, a former House and Senate member, has served alongside 21 current senators.
Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate 19 to 12. One of the Republican members is Paxton’s wife, Senator Angela Paxton. It is not immediately known when the Senate will hold the trial. Mackowiak predicted that Paxton would survive the trial until other GOP leaders intervened against him.
“At the end of the day, I think removal is unlikely unless the governor and the lieutenant governor both demand it,” he said.
Contributor: Austin American-Stateman
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why Donald Trump couldn’t save Ken Paxton from impeachment in Texas.