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Veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove said Friday that Attorney General Ken Paxton only has himself to blame for his impeachment.
At the Texas Tribune Festival, Rove pushed back against claims Paxton made in recent interviews that Rove colluded with other Texas officials to bring about the charges against him. Rove’s comments come six days after the state Senate voted to acquit Paxton in his impeachment trial.
“I wish I could claim credit for having instigated the investigation of Warren Kenneth Paxton, but that honor goes to Warren Kenneth Paxton,” Rove said.
“The guy can’t keep his zipper up,” he later said.
Rove was apparently referencing allegations that the attorney general misused his office to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, in exchange for favors that included giving a job to a woman with whom Paxton was having an affair.
“The tycoon wanted something in return for giving the girlfriend a job — and he got it,” Rove said.
After his acquittal, Paxton went on a media blitz blasting a range of political enemies including Rove. The Austin-based strategist and former adviser to George W. Bush is no fan of Paxton, writing a column last month that suggested Paxton was likely to be convicted at trial.
At the festival, Rove did not hold back about his feelings about Paxton. He said the responsibility for the impeachment “rests with Ken Paxton, who by his own arrogance, thought he could get the taxpayers of Texas stuck with” a $3.3 million settlement with whistleblowers who reported him to the FBI in 2020.
“The Senate is not really a court,” Rove said. “They made their decision. But the court of opinion is going to hold this guy responsible.”
Rove added that Democrats “are not gonna be so stupid as to nominate somebody” who cannot give Paxton a serious challenge in his next election.
Paxton is up for reelection in 2026, though he has floated challenging U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, instead.
Paxton won a third term last year, defeating Democrat Rochella Garza by 10 percentage points in his first election since the whistleblowers’ claims.
Paxton has repeatedly bashed Rove in his post-acquittal interviews, which began with an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. In posting the interview, Carlson wrote that “liberals like Karl Rove just tried to annihilate” Paxton.
“I wish I could claim credit for it, but whoever that guy is who called me a liberal, obviously, is not very conversant with what the hell is going on in Texas,” Rove said.
As The Texas Tribune's signature event of the year, The Texas Tribune Festival brings Texans closer to politics, policy and the day’s news from Texas and beyond. Browse on-demand recordings and catch up on the biggest headlines from Festival events at the Tribune’s Festival news page.