WASHINGTON — In the hours before the GOP-controlled Texas legislature voted to impeach fellow Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, former President Donald Trump repeatedly took to social media with a warning to all — and especially members of his own party – which rose against his protracted.
Trump complained about what he called the “deeply unfair process” used last weekend to oust one of the country’s most active state officials and vowed to “fight” all lawmakers who supported the impeachment.
In the end, a majority of Texan Republicans in the state’s House of Representatives ignored the admonitions of a former president and party leader and overwhelmingly voted to impeach Paxton anyway. Of the 85 Republicans in the chamber, 60 supported Paxton’s impeachment.
Dropped off: Texas House deposes AG Ken Paxton with overwhelming GOP support. The Senate trial is next.
To vote: Here’s how Texas lawmakers voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton
The decision by many Republicans to dismiss 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 field 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 ally Paxton. Does it matter?
Paxton has been a nationally prominent conservative legal voice and an ally of Trump for many years. In addition to filing high-profile lawsuits against President Joe Biden over immigration and other issues, it was Paxton who appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court against the 2020 election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The country’s highest court finally rejected that request at the end of 2020.
Leading up to Saturday’s impeachment, Trump took to his Truth Social platform to slay GOP lawmakers in Texas and encourage them to let voters decide Paxton’s fate instead. “Hopefully the Republicans in the Texas House will agree that this is a deeply unfair process that should not take place or continue,” he wrote. “I will fight you if so.”
The former president and other national conservative figures doubled down after the vote as Texas focus shifted to a Senate trial. Trump accused Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican, of “MISSING IN ACTION!” during the impeachment campaign.
When all politics is both local and national
The battle between Paxton, a Republican former state legislator 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 embroiled in multiple investigations into abuse of office and retaliatory action against whistleblower complaints.
“There’s a lot of history here under the surface,” says Texas-based GOP adviser Matt Mackowiak.
Much of that history has nothing to do with Trump, Mackowiak said.
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Still, Mackowiak said he was “surprised that the vote in the House was so overwhelming” and predicted that lawmakers “who voted to impeach will defend this issue in GOP primaries across 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 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 was running for the Senate in Arizona.
The internal strife in Texas was not limited to Trump and state legislators. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that the impeachment was a “travesty,” claiming that no other attorney general had “more ferociously fought the abuses of the Biden administrator.” Texas Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi thanked Trump and Cruz for their steadfastness in a statement against what he called a “sham of an impeachment”.
What’s happening 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 Senate trial. Abbott must designate an interim replacement.
The House vote to impeach is analogous to a grand jury indictment in a criminal case. Paxton’s final removal from office would require a two-thirds vote in the 31-member Senate. Paxton, a former member of the House and Senate, 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 clear when the Senate will hold the trial. Mackowiak predicted that Paxton would survive the trial as long as no more state GOP leaders act against him.
“Ultimately, I think removal is unlikely unless the governor and lieutenant governor both request it,” he said.
Contributions: Austin American-Statesman
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Why Donald Trump Couldn’t Save Ken Paxton From Impeachment In Texas.