As Impeachment Trial Begins, It’s Hard to Find a Texas Republican Who Thinks Trump Did Anything Wrong

President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Oct. 17, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Oct. 17, 2019. Melissa Hennings
They should just come out and say it. Everything would be so much easier if Texas Republicans would just admit what they, their constituents and their fellow travelers know to be true: They don't care whether President Donald Trump did what he's alleged to have done in the articles of impeachment over which he will be tried beginning Tuesday.

Admitting that consolidating and holding power by whatever means necessary is what matters would, at least, cut off the cognitive dissonance and end the charade that the president's Senate impeachment trial was any more than theater.

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President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Oct. 17, 2019.
Melissa Hennings
That's never going to happen, though. Admitting Trump's behavior is anything less than "perfect" risks the ire of the president himself and, perhaps more important, his rabid base of supporters, all of whom are ready to turn on anyone who dares question the emperor.

Instead of honesty — or even convincing lying — what Texans are getting instead from their Republican leaders is a series of distortions and look-over-theres, enough to make anyone's head spin ahead of the trial and the November general election.

Here are some of the Texas GOP's best impeachment excuses.

1. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told conservative radio host Rick Roberts in December that Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, two of House Democrats' impeachment managers, couldn't be trusted because of their appearance:

"They just do not look like honest people. They don't present themselves well. The smirks, the nastiness," Patrick said. "This is going to guarantee the president a bigger win in 2020 in Texas and in America."

He's got Democrats there. For all President Trump's issues, comportment isn't one of them.

2. U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, the East Texas congressman who couldn't get confirmed as Trump's intelligence chief because he wasn't qualified, accused Democrats of trying to frame Trump:

"Despite failing miserably in their prolonged, desperate campaign to frame him for crimes he didn’t commit, they moved forward with a vote to remove a sitting president from office based on nothing more than their personal and political opposition," Ratcliffe said. “This is the thinnest, fastest and weakest impeachment our country has ever seen — rooted in a congratulatory phone call where there are no crimes alleged, where there is no victim and where Democrats themselves could never decide what to even accuse the president of doing wrong."

3. Former Energy Secretary and Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that Democrats were "chasing a ghost," in an interview with CNBC:

“People so dislike this president in a political way that they will spend whatever it takes, even to the point of giving up their own reputations, to try to harm him,” Perry said.

4. Sen. Ted Cruz gets kind of close to an intellectually defensible position:

"Donald Trump says things frequently that I wish he wouldn't say ... I don't have control over that. The fact that he shouldn't have gone down that road is a long way from saying, 'Therefore, he should be impeached and forcibly removed from office after the American people have voted in a presidential election.'

"That is a big threshold, and there are a lot of Democrats who I think ... they're not focused on the facts. They want him impeached, and whatever the facts are are fine," Cruz said on Chris Hayes' excellent podcast, "Why Is This Happening," late last year.

As Trump's trial date approached last week, however, Cruz's objectivity seemed to wane.
5. U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, long one of Democrats' Great Republican Hopes, went strictly partisan: 

“For me, my standard for impeachment has always been ‘a violation of the law,’” Hurd told Politico. “We have 435 folks in the House, 100 senators. That means there’s 535 definitions for impeachment. I’ve sat through the hundreds of hours of depositions and hearings and didn’t see any evidence presented of bribery or extortion.

“This is a grave decision that I do not take lightly. I do not believe the evidence presented amounts to an impeachable offense. And, I am concerned about what we are missing while engaged in this partisan investigation. If the intent is to protect the integrity of our election, and our democracy, we must refocus on real threats, namely Russian intrusion, that we know to be ongoing."

6. Rep. Louie Gohmert says Trump, like O.J. Simpson before him, was just looking for the real criminals:

From the jump, Gohmert, one of Trump's strongest allies in the House, has claimed that Trump's interactions with Ukrainian officials, the ones that led to the president's being impeached, were actually intended to root out Ukrainian interference with the 2016 election. That no such interference ever happened — no matter what internet comment sections might tell you — is of no concern to Gohmert.

7. Former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, now running for Congress, says that Trump is getting impeached for doing too good a job: 8. That's a little less scary than uber-conservative rainmaker and meeting-recording enthusiast Michael Quinn Sullivan, who thinks the whole thing is a coup.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young