Paxton slams fellow Republicans on celebratory right-wing media tour following acquittal
The reinstated Texas attorney general said he’d target House Republicans in the next election cycle and floated the idea of a run for higher office.
Fresh from his acquittal by the Texas Senate, reinstated Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton promised to target Republicans that he now considers his political enemies during next year’s GOP primaries.
Paxton told conservative talk show host Mark Davis Thursday morning that he doesn’t often get involved in primaries, but he’s changing the rules next election season.
“Absolutely. What they did was wrong,” he said.
Paxton was acquitted Saturday on 16 counts that included abuse of office, bribery, and other allegations after a two-week political trial in the upper chamber. That came after the Republican-led Texas House impeached Paxton in May after being presented with evidence of alleged wrongdoing.
Paxton’s short list includes many of the House leaders behind the effort, including House Speaker Dade Phelan, R- Beaumont, state Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, and state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano.
“I'm highly motivated,” he told Davis. “I’ll be spending a lot of time in Beaumont. I'll be spending a lot of time in, I think it's Kerrville where Murr is. And I'll be spending a lot of time in Collin County.”
Murr is the chair of the House General Investigating Committee that conducted the investigation, and Leach is a former Paxton supporter who was among the House managers that brought the charges.
Paxton still enjoys wide-ranging support from voters in his home base of Collin County, in North Texas. But he said that many of the state representatives from the county didn’t offer their support.
“There's a lot of Collin County [representatives] that didn't talk to me, that I've been friends with for a long time. It would have been nice to have gotten one call from them,” he said. “But I never got that courtesy. So I will definitely be speaking out.”
Before the Senate voted to acquit Paxton, Leach told the senators he “loved” Paxton and had supported him in the past. But he added that it was the right thing to do to support the impeachment. Paxton singled out his former ally Thursday morning.
“And Jeff Leach, get ready,” he said.
In a text message sent late Thursday, Leach quipped: "We're ready."
A spokesperson for Phelan declined to comment and a call to Murr's office wasn't immediately returned.
Although Paxton is celebrating this acquittal, he still has other legal woes to contend with. He was indicted in 2015 on securities fraud charges after he allegedly recruited investors for a tech startup company without disclosing he was being paid for his efforts. He’s also been under investigation by the FBI since 2020, though there have been no charges filed in that case. A trial date for the state charges will be discussed in court in early October, the Associated Press reported.
Paxton on Thursday also repeated the dubious claims that his political trial in the Senate was the result of a joint effort between Democrats and the Bush-era Republicans. During the trial, defense attorney Tony Buzbee said in his closing argumentsthat Paxton was targeted because, in part, he defeated George P. Bush, a member of the Bush dynasty and nephew to former President George W. Bush, in the 2022 primary election for Texas Attorney General.
During an interview with Tucker Carlson that aired on social media Wednesday, Paxton said former Bush advisor Karl Rove was partially behind the effort.
“There's nothing he won't do, I believe,” he said. “Any strategies open to Karl Rove, he is good with it as long as he gets his way.”
The Texas Democratic Party didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Paxton’s collusion theory.
Paxton also criticized U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who was the state’s attorney general before being elected to Congress.
“I don't know what he's done in 14 years. Maybe you can tell me,” he told Davis. “I can't name anything he's done, and maybe he's just hiding it. But someone else needs to run for that spot.”
Paxton floated the idea of a possible challenge to Cornyn Wednesday, telling Carlson that “I think it's time somebody needs to step up and run against this guy” and that “everything is on the table.”
Pressed by Davis Thursday, Paxton said he wasn’t ruling a run out, though he said he is focused on his current job.
“His time is done, whether it's me or somebody else. I don't necessarily have a plan to do that,” Paxton said of Cornyn. “What I want to do is my job right now. But I'm not ruling out anything.”
Cornyn’s senate office did not immediately provide comment on Paxton’s criticism of the senator’s time in office.
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