With television ads and text messages, direct mail
and billboards, supporters of the embattled Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton,
have embarked on an escalating campaign of political pressure, backed by
hard-right billionaires, aimed at trying to sway the outcome of Mr. Paxton’s
upcoming impeachment trial, reported The New York Times.
The targets of their efforts are narrow: the 19
Republican members of the State Senate who will act as jurors in the trial, set
to begin on Tuesday, and decide whether allegations of corruption and abuse of
power are serious enough to warrant permanently removing and barring Mr. Paxton
But the effort to save Mr. Paxton, who is seen
by many hard-core conservatives as their legal standard-bearer, is also the
latest proxy in the broader fight over the future direction of the party, both
in Texas and nationally.
It has drawn in a range of conservative figures on
both sides, with Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, and Karl Rove, the
political consultant to former President George W. Bush, arguing in support of
the impeachment process, and Steve Bannon, the former Trump political adviser,
lampooning it as a Democrat-inspired witch hunt.
“We want the entire MAGA movement to understand that what’s going on in Texas is not just about Texas,” Mr. Bannon told his podcast audience this month.
The wrangling over Mr. Paxton’s fate has reflected
the same deep Republican divisions that emerged in Georgia over the indictment
of Donald J. Trump, raising again the question of whether Republicans are
willing to hold fellow conservatives to account — and whether, if they do so,
they can survive a primary.
Mr. Paxton has so far managed to survive politically
under both a criminal indictment and the looming impeachment, in part because
he has become a key player on the right flank of the conservative legal
movement. He has mounted aggressive challenges to the Biden administration,
particularly over its immigration policies, and led coalitions of Republican
states against Obama-era programs such as the Affordable Care Act and Deferred
Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protects many migrants from
deportation if they came to the United States as children.
He secured Mr. Trump’s endorsement in a hard-fought primary last year, after demonstrating his
willingness to contest the results of the 2020 election in court. An outspoken
partisan fighter, he addressed the crowd at a rally for Mr. Trump on Jan. 6,
2021, that preceded an insurrection at the Capitol.
Yet those conservative credentials may not be enough
to help Mr. Paxton survive what promises to be the most significant test he has
faced. Though Republicans have a clear majority in the Texas Legislature, the
most stridently partisan members do not always hold sway.
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