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Donald Trump, Ted Cruz denounce effort to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz denounce effort to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Former President Donald Trump made a late play Saturday to stop the Texas House’s push to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, blasting it as “ELECTION INTERFERENCE.”

With less than half an hour until the House was set to consider Paxton’s impeachment, Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to blast the effort.

“The RINO Speaker of the House of Texas, Dade Phelan, who is barely a Republican at all and failed the test on voter integrity, wants to impeach one of the most hard working and effective Attorney Generals in the United States, Ken Paxton, who just won re-election with a large number of American Patriots strongly voting for him,” Trump said.

He went on to make clear that he will politically target any Texas House Republican who lets the impeachment move forward.

“I will fight you if it does,” Trump said.

Paxton has long been a Trump loyalist, and his endorsement from the former president helped him fend off three prominent primary challengers last year. But after it was revealed earlier this week that the House was investigating Paxton, it became increasingly unclear whether the attorney general would get backup from Trump.

Trump is by far the highest-profile Republican to come to Paxton’s defense. On Saturday morning, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, added his voice to the opposition, calling the impeachment effort a “travesty.” Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., came out against the impeachment effort Friday.

Other top Texas Republicans have been largely silent. Gov. Greg Abbott has not said anything, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said only that he believes members of his Senate will fulfill their responsibilities if a trial were to take place there.

There is no love lost between Trump and Phelan. Trump is close to Patrick, the presiding officer of the Senate, and has previously attacked Phelan at Patrick’s behest.

While Phelan has largely ignored the attacks, he did raise questions after the 2022 election about whether Trump is the right person to lead the Republican Party going forward.

Paxton has closely aligned himself with Trump as attorney general. Paxton filed a lawsuit to overturn Trump’s 2020 reelection loss in four battleground states, and Paxton spoke at the rally that came before the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Last election cycle, Paxton’s legal problems drew three well-known primary opponents: then-Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and then-U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Tyler. Trump endorsed Paxton early in the primary, and while Bush caused a runoff, Paxton easily beat him in the overtime round.

“Free Ken Paxton,” Trump said Saturday. “Let them wait for the next election!”

Cruz expressed his support for the attorney general in a series of tweets Saturday. He said the courts should sort out Paxton’s alleged wrongdoing instead.

“For the last nine years, Ken has been the strongest conservative AG in the country. Bar none,” Cruz wrote. “No attorney general has battled the abuses of the Biden admin more ferociously—and more effectively—than has Paxton.”

On the other hand, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn — the senior senator from Texas and a former attorney general for the state — has said he found what he saw during the House investigating committee hearing “deeply troubling.”

“The fact that this has come this far with the Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate and a Republican attorney general tells you that this is serious enough that people are looking past party labels to try to see what we need to do to preserve the public trust and integrity of the institution,” Cornyn told reporters Thursday. He has not commented since the House General Investigating Committee unanimously recommended Paxton’s impeachment.

Alex Nguyen contributed reporting.

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