Former President Donald Trump and other prominent conservatives took to social media to defend Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton even as the Republican-led Texas House voted to impeach him.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and fellow Republicans joined with Democrats to temporarily remove Paxton, a staunch GOP conservative, from office on accusations of bribery, obstruction of justice, and abuse of public trust.
Shortly before the House convened, Trump made a statement on Truth Social attacking Phelan, who has come under criticism from state Republican leaders for working with Democrats on advancing their policies.
"The RINO Speaker of the House of Texas, Dade Phelan, who is barely a Republican at all and failed the test on voter integrity, wants to impeach one of the most hard-working and effective Attorney Generals in the United States, Ken Paxton, who just won reelection with a large number of American Patriots strongly voting for him," Trump wrote.
Trump, who was impeached twice during his presidency and acquitted both times, said the move against Paxton was an "unfair process that should not be allowed to happen or proceed." The former president vowed to fight it if it does.
"Free Ken Paxton, let them wait for the next elections," Trump wrote.
Other influential Republican leaders, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), and Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle, condemned the effort.
"No attorney general has battled the abuses of the Biden admin more ferociously—and more effectively—than has Paxton."
Greene wrote on Twitter, "This Texas House-led impeachment is a witch hunt."
The vote means Paxton will be removed from office immediately to await trial in the Senate, where House members will present their cases as impeachment managers.
Two-thirds of the Senate must agree in order to remove Paxton from office permanently.
Paxton said following the House vote that the impeachment is unfair and politically motivated, saying he looks forward to resolving the allegations in the Senate.
The impeachment move came 48 hours after articles were presented to the House. The House General Investigating Committee revealed that it was investigating Paxton for wrongdoing last week.
The investigation was triggered after Paxton requested earlier in the session for the state to pay a $3.3 million settlement reached with whistleblowers within the AG's office. The whistleblowers filed suit in 2020 alleging wrongdoing on Paxton's part that was also reported to the FBI.
Several conservative House lawmakers spoke against the whirlwind impeachment, questioning the swiftness of the vote on a May 27 at the end of the legislative session.
State Rep. Brian Harrison, a Republican, called the impeachment a "sham" and "railroading of a political enemy."
Another House Republican, state Rep. Mike Schofield, complained that the monthslong investigation was conducted under the radar and that House members were kept in the dark until last week.
"I began this week with no idea the House was considering impeaching the Attorney General. Now here, at the end of the week, we are preparing to remove him from office before the day is out," he said.
Schofield called the proceedings "unprecedented" and said there was no reason "to sneak up on the public" by fast-tracking the removal of an elected official.
Others said Paxton was denied a chance to defend the charges against him.
Paxton, endorsed by Trump, was reelected to a third term in November 2022 as the state's top law enforcement officer.
The battle between Republican factions in Texas became apparent when Paxton accused Phelan of being drunk while presiding on the House floor on May 19 and called for Phelan's resignation.
But Phelan's office dismissed the accusation as an attempt by Paxton to "save face."
There have been only two impeachments in Texas's nearly 200-year history.