Speaking briefly at a press conference a day before the anticipated House vote, Paxton said House members were “showcasing their absolute contempt for the electoral process” and “inflicting lasting damage” on their chamber, which is controlled by the GOP and whose speaker is also a Republican.
In statements and social media posts, conservatives accused their fellow Republicans in the Texas House — Speaker Dade Phelan in particular — of attempting to undermine voters and conservative values by attacking Paxton. And, largely without addressing the merits of the many accusations against Paxton, they framed him as the victim of a political witch hunt that was orchestrated by a cabal of Democrats and “Republicans in name only.”
“The impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General are but the latest front in the Texas House’s war against Republicans to stop the conservative direction of our state,” Matt Rinaldi, chair of the Republican Party of Texas, said in a statement. “This sham impeachment is the result of the Phelan leadership team empowering Democrats, allowing them to hold leadership positions and letting them control the agenda.”
Rinaldi is thus far the highest-positioned Texas Republican to condemn the investigation. Gov. Greg Abbott has remained silent, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who would preside over an impeachment trial in the Senate, has said it would be improper for him to weigh in.
National Republicans are filling the void, however. While former President Donald Trump — a Paxton ally who endorsed his campaign before last year’s GOP primary — has not commented, his son Donald Trump Jr. said Friday that the investigation into “America First patriot Ken Paxton” is a “disgrace.”
“MAGA stands with Ken Paxton against this RINO/DEMO led witch hunt!!!” Trump Jr. tweeted.
Other prominent right-wing figures have come to Paxton’s defense. Citing Paxton’s frequent lawsuits against the Biden administration, former Trump adviser Stephen Miller called on conservatives to “stand with Ken.” And Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted of homicide after fatally shooting two Black Lives Matter protesters in Wisconsin, accused Phelan of working with “anti-gun Democrats” and “attacking our pro-gun attorney general.”
— Patrick Svitek, Robert Downen and Zach Despart
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune