By Joshua Fechter, The Texas Tribune
“Trump congratulates Paxton on “Texas sized” impeachment victory” 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 congratulated Attorney General Ken Paxton for beating the impeachment charges against him Saturday — and called on the GOP leader of the Texas House to resign.
“Congratulations to Attorney General Ken Paxton on a great and historic Texas sized VICTORY,” Trump wrote Saturday afternoon on his social media platform Truth Social. “I also want to congratulate his wonderful wife and family for having had to go through this ordeal, and WINNING!”
House impeachment managers had accused Paxton of misusing his office to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor, harass and investigate his enemies. But in a series of dramatic votes, senators who had acted as jurors in Paxton’s impeachment trial rejected all 16 charges and reinstated the third-term Republican to office.
Trump praised Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presided over the trial as judge, and Republican senators for rescuing Paxton, long a Trump loyalist. Trump turned his ire on House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Beaumont Republican who has often feuded with Trump ally Patrick.
“It is time that Speaker Dade Phelan resign after pushing this Disgraceful Sham!” Trump wrote.
Other prominent Republicans congratulated Paxton for beating the charges.
“Congrats to [Paxton] on being acquitted of every single article of impeachment,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “This was the right outcome, consistent with the will of the voters. I look forward to seeing Paxton back in office, continuing to serve as the most effective conservative AG in America.”
Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been quiet about his feelings on the impeachment trial, struck a neutral tone in the wake of Paxton’s acquittal: “the jury has spoken.”
“Attorney General Ken Paxton received a fair trial as required by the Texas Constitution,” Abbott wrote in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General to secure the border and protect Texas from federal overreach.”
But the verdict wasn’t welcome news for all Texas Republicans — particularly those in the House who laid their political capital on the line to impeach him. Phelan blasted the Senate’s verdict as “extremely unfortunate” after the House presented them “with extensive evidence of Ken Paxton’s corruption, deception and self-dealing.
“The impeachment process exists not to punish the offender, but to determine whether they have abused their power so egregiously that they are unfit for office and their removal is in the best interest of the state,” Phelan wrote in a lengthy statement Saturday afternoon. “It is unfortunate that the outcome of this process will ultimately relinquish control of the state’s top law enforcement agency to an individual who, I believe, clearly abused his power, compromised his agency and its employees, and moved mountains to protect and benefit himself.”
Republicans in the Texas Legislature took to social media to celebrate Paxton’s acquittal — many praising the Senate’s push under Patrick to kill the effort while lambasting the House Republican-backed impeachment effort.
“I stood against this witch hunt of an impeachment from day one,” wrote state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, an Arlington Republican who voted against sending impeachment charges against Paxton from the House to the Senate. “I told my colleagues that there was no evidence, but they were threatened and bullied by (Phelan) and his lieutenants. Senators had the freedom to vote without being bullied by leadership, and the truth prevailed.”
Other far-right Republicans vowed retribution against the House Republicans who pushed the impeachment inquiry — signaling a coming GOP civil war.
“Speaker Phelan must step down now for empowering this Democrat effort while killing Republican priorities,” said state Rep. Brian Harrison, a Midlothian Republican who also voted against the articles in the House and called for state auditors to probe what state tax dollars had been “wasted” on the effort.
Democrats, meanwhile, lamented the Senate verdict.
“Despite overwhelming evidence of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s corruption, (Patrick) and the Texas Republican Senate acquitted him,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, wrote on X. “So blatantly ignoring the Rule of Law in this case is very dangerous.”
“Is anyone surprised that Texas Republicans let Ken Paxton off the hook for blatant and rampant corruption?” U.S. Rep. Greg Casar, D-Austin, wrote on X. “We can’t expect justice from them. We must #VoteThemOut.”
Texas House Democrats, too, lambasted the outcome.
“Senate Republicans failed to protect the public trust and they will be tied to Paxton’s crimes for the rest of history,” wrote state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat who heads the Texas House Democratic Caucus.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/09/16/ted-cruz-greg-abbott-texas-officials-ken-paxton/.
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