The Texas Tribune

Texas GOP chair who assumed role after facing backlash for racist Facebook post resigns

"Harris County GOP chair who assumed role after facing backlash for racist Facebook post resigns" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

The head of the Republican Party in Texas' largest county has resigned after less than four months on the job.

Keith Nielsen, chairman of the GOP in Harris County, home to Houston, submitted a letter of resignation and the party's secretary, Josh Flynn, said he received it Monday morning. The party did not immediately release the letter, but Flynn said Nielsen stepped down for "personal reasons."

Nielsen was engulfed in controversy before he even became chairman. He won the job in March, but as he prepared to take office this summer, he faced widespread condemnation for posting a Facebook graphic juxtaposing a Martin Luther King Jr. quote with a banana, which could be read as an allusion to equating Black people with monkeys, a well-worn racist trope. He initially said he would forfeit the job but reneged, taking office in early August.

Nielsen's resignation is effective immediately, according to Rolando Garcia, a member of the party's advisory board. The county party's executive committee will meet Dec. 14 to pick Nielsen's successor, Flynn said.

One potential candidate is the party's current vice chair, Kevin Fulton. He briefly ran for chair this summer when it looked like Nielsen would not take office.

Once a battleground, Harris County has become increasingly blue in recent elections. President-elect Joe Biden carried it by 13 percentage points in the Nov. 3 election, a slightly larger margin than Hillary Clinton did four years earlier.

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Texas GOP rep says it’s time for Donald Trump to 'move on'

"U.S. Rep. Kay Granger says it's time for Donald Trump to “move on" as most Texas Republicans remain silent" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, a high-ranking member of Texas' congressional delegation who is respected among her peers, said Friday she has “great concerns" about President Donald Trump's continued efforts to overturn the country's election results after his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden.

“I have great concerns about it," she told CNN on Friday morning. “I think that it's time to move on."

“I think it's time for him to really realize and be very clear about what's going on," she added, when asked if the president should concede.

Granger's statements are only exceptional in the context of current Republican politics. Trump has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the election results, and for the most part Texas Republicans in Congress have either stayed silent or also questioned the results without providing evidence of fraud on a level that would change the election's outcome. Trump's legal team has lost dozens of cases in court alleging voter fraud.

Biden led Trump in the popular vote by about 6 million votes as of Friday afternoon, and all national news organizations project Biden will carry the Electoral College, 306-232. Even so, Trump campaign attorneys continue to wage their legal battle. And given its setbacks in court, the team has since turned to other methods to subvert the results, including setting up a White House meeting Friday with Republican legislative leaders from Michigan as the state prepares to certify its vote totals. Biden defeated Trump by 156,000 votes in Michigan.

The fear among many in American politics is not that Trump has any serious path to overturn the results, but that his efforts will undermine public confidence in an election that the Department of Homeland Security official who oversees the country's cybersecurity, Christopher Krebs, described as “the most secure in American history." On Tuesday, Trump fired Krebs via Twitter.

But among Republican officeholders, few are pushing back against the president. Most Texas Republicans remain silent, and some Trump loyalists, including U.S. Rep.-elect Ronny Jackson, who was just elected to a heavily Republican seat in the Panhandle, are offering up support to Trump.

Granger's comments are notable, however, since she is no mere rank-and-file member of Congress. She is the most senior female Republican in the House GOP conference and is known as a mentor to many younger female Republican members — a group that will swell in membership early next year. Also in January, Granger will share with U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, the title of dean of the Texas Republican delegation in the new Congress.

She is perhaps the Texas Republican in the U.S. House who is held in the highest regard among her peers. Two years ago, she won a fierce battle for the Republican leadership of the House Appropriations Committee and is poised to take over possibly the most coveted post in the House — chair of the Appropriations Committee — if Republicans take back control of the U.S. House in 2022.

But earlier this year, she faced her toughest fight ever in her GOP primary. Republican Chris Putnam challenged her for the party nomination in the heavily Republican district, and his central case against her was that she was not adequately supportive of Trump. Granger won that race by a 16-point margin, thanks in part to Trump's endorsement. In late 2019, months before the primary, she was seen in a luxury box with the president at the World Series.

Granger's comments came a day after a press conference at the Republican National Committee's Washington headquarters in which Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, led a team of lawyers in issuing allegations without evidence that charged a sweeping Democratic conspiracy to win the election.

Another Texas Republican, Jackson, expressed support for the efforts and retweeted a video in which Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell claimed the team would produce evidence that Trump won the 2020 election in a landslide. Powell has repeatedly ignored requests to produce credible evidence supporting her claims. Jackson served as the physician to Trump, and the pair shared an affectionate friendship.

Most other Texas Republicans have not addressed the matter in public since Giuliani's news conference.

Democrats, meanwhile, are ringing alarms that a lack of Trump administration engagement in the transition is beginning to undermine efforts to put the Biden administration in position to combat the coronavirus pandemic when he takes office in January. A number have recalled the 9/11 Commission Report's warnings that the delayed transition between the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations may have been a contributing factor to the federal government's inability to stop the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Democrats are privately simmering, and the anger is beginning to boil over publicly.

“The orderly transfer of power has been a bedrock of American democracy," wrote U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso. “The consequences of @realDonaldTrump's temper tantrum and refusal to cooperate with President-elect @JoeBiden are far-reaching and deadly for Americans."

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FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: AP report

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The FBI is investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Associated Press reported Tuesday evening, vetting allegations made by eight of Paxton's former top aides that he illegally used the power of his office to benefit a political donor.

Two unnamed sources told the AP that the bureau was examining claims made by the whistleblowers that Paxton broke the law by intervening several times in legal matters involving Nate Paul, a real estate investor and friend who donated $25,000 to Paxton's campaign in 2018.

On Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, eight aides in total told authorities that they believed Paxton had committed crimes as part of his relationship with Paul, citing bribery and abuse of office. Since then, four aides have been fired, three have resigned, and one has been placed on leave — sparking a whistleblower lawsuit.

Paxton, a Republican in his second term, has denied wrongdoing and said he will not resign his post, even as some in his own party call on him to do so and the state's top leaders call the allegations “concerning."

Earlier Tuesday, before the FBI investigation was made public, Paxton said in a statement that he knows “a little something about being falsely accused" and dismissed the allegations made by the whistleblowers as “overblown, based upon assumptions, and to a large degree misrepresent the facts."

Paxton has been under indictment for more than five years on securities fraud charges but has yet to stand trial. He has dismissed the charges as politically motivated and entered a not guilty plea.

Neither a campaign spokesperson for Paxton nor a defense attorney who is working on his long-running securities fraud case returned a request for comment about the FBI probe Tuesday. A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment.

The full scope of Paxton's relationship with Paul remains unclear, though Paul has characterized it as friendly. In a deposition earlier this month, Paul revealed that he had employed a woman at Paxton's recommendation, though he said it was not a favor to Paxton. The woman had been involved in an extramarital affair with Paxton, according to two people who said the attorney general told them of the relationship in 2018.

Since the allegations surfaced last month, four examples have emerged of Paxton using his 4,000-employee agency to benefit Paul.

The whistleblowers allege Paxton tried to help Paul on a pair of open-records disputes, urging state employees to release documents that should have been confidential, and that Paxton rushed a legal opinion on foreclosure sales during the coronavirus pandemic, which helped Paul avoid such sales on several of his properties.

The attorney general's office — at Paxton's direction, the whistleblowers say — also took the highly unusual step of intervening in a lawsuit between Paul and an Austin-area charity.

And in September, Paxton hired an outside attorney to evaluate a complaint by Paul that he had been mistreated during an FBI raid on his property in 2019. Paxton's staff, the whistleblowers say, had already vetted the allegations and found them meritless, but Paxton continued to push the investigation.

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There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud so Texas' Lt. Governor Patrick is offering $1 million to anyone who can find it

By Shawn Mulcahy, The Texas Tribune

Nov. 10, 2020

"There's no evidence of widespread voter fraud, but Dan Patrick is encouraging people to report it with up to a $1 million reward" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Tuesday he is offering up to $1 million to "incentivize, encourage and reward" people for reports of voter fraud in Texas, even as there's been no evidence of mass voter fraud and experts say it's rare.

The Republican state leader's crusade for proof of election problems in Texas comes as members of his own party dominated up and down the ballot.

Patrick said that anyone who provides information that leads to a conviction will receive at least $25,000. The money will come from Patrick's campaign fund, according to spokesperson Sherry Sylvester.

“I support President Trump's efforts to identify voter fraud in the presidential election and his commitment to making sure that every legal vote is counted and every illegal vote is disqualified," Patrick said in a statement. “The delays in counting mail-in ballots in other states raises more questions about voter fraud and potential mistakes."

He did not provide any evidence of mass voter fraud. His press release cited three recent arrests, including that of a social worker in Mexia, Texas, on counts of election fraud over allegations that the worker registered to vote 67 residents of a supported living center without their consent.

An unprecedented number of mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic slowed ballot counting in a handful of states, including the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, where election officials were barred from processing them before Election Day. The Republican-controlled legislature shot down a request from Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar that would've allowed election officials to start counting mail-in ballots before polls closed.

“These people want to delegitimize votes in order to appeal to their Trumpian base," said Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party. “We know that there's a lot of work to do here in Texas and Dan Patrick is in our sights in 2022."

Texas Republicans managed to stave off Democratic gains, particularly in down-ballot congressional and state legislative races where Democrats hoped to shrink the ruling party's margin. President Donald Trump carried Texas by nearly 6 percentage points, according to Decision Desk HQ.

Patrick, in an October interview with "The Mark Davis Show," claimed that Democrats were trying to "steal the election."

"If the president loses Pennsylvania or North Carolina, Mark, or Florida, they'll lose it because they stole it," he said, without evidence.

Trump's campaign has filed a barrage of legal challenges in key states — including Georgia and Wisconsin — in an attempt to close the widening gap between the president and Joe Biden, who was declared president-elect on Saturday.

Those lawsuits, however, have so far failed to pan out. Judges tossed out cases in Nevada and Michigan because the Trump campaign failed to prove allegations of fraud, NPR reported.

Yet some of Texas' most prominent Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, jumped to the president's defense in recent days, amplifying baseless conspiracy theories or spreading misinformation.

"The right standard is that every single vote that was legally cast should be counted, but any votes that were illegally cast shouldn't be counted," Cruz said on Fox News' "Hannity," though he offered no evidence of fraud.

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Texas heads to US Supreme Court in bid to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Here's what to expect

"What to expect as Texas heads to the U.S. Supreme Court in bid to overturn the Affordable Care Act" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Texas, leading a coalition of Republican states, heads to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday morning to argue that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional and should be struck down in its entirety.

On Texas' side: the Trump administration. On the other side: a coalition of Democratic states led by California.

What's at stake?

Health insurance and popular benefits for millions of Americans, including some 1 million in Texas who have subsidized health insurance plans under the law. The sprawling health law touches nearly every facet of the American health care system — from popular protections for individuals with preexisting conditions to no-cost benefits for certain health services to allowing young adults to stay on their parents' insurance through age 26. Experts say it's almost impossible to imagine the chaos that would come from ending the law without a replacement, particularly during the worsening coronavirus pandemic. Texas already has the nation's highest uninsured rate.

Gov. Greg Abbott said years ago that if the Affordable Care Act were to fall, Texas would be ready with a replacement, but no plan has materialized. It would be difficult for the state to cover the gaps without congressional action, given its limited regulatory authority over the insurance market.

What are the legal arguments?

Texas argues that the entire fate of the act turns on one key provision, the individual mandate. Once a penalty you had to pay for not purchasing insurance, the mandate was set to $0 by Congress in a 2017 tax cut. Texas argues that since the mandate is $0, it cannot be interpreted as a tax, and thus must fall as unconstitutional.

The state's legal team goes a step further than that — and here's where it loses some legal scholars. Texas claims that if the individual mandate must fall as unconstitutional, the entirety of the sprawling health law has to go with it. That question of “severability" is at the core of the case.

A number of legal scholars don't buy that, and a conservative federal appellate court, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said much the same when it heard the case a few years ago. In its December 2019 ruling, the court said the individual mandate was unconstitutional, but that it needed to hear more arguments about why the rest of the law had to fall with it.

The California coalition has argued that the individual mandate remains constitutional, but that even if it were not, the rest of the law could stand without it.

Why is Texas involved?

Texas, leading a coalition of Republican states, filed this lawsuit in February 2018, though that was not its first time challenging the law. Texas is just one state, but given its size and Republican leadership, the attorney general here has often led the way on major challenges to federal law (see also: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, environmental regulations) as well as other major multi-state investigations (like a probe into Google). Abbott, a former attorney general, used to describe his job this way: “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and then I go home."

In this case, the Trump administration has sided with Texas and the other red states, leaving Democratic states like California to defend the federal law. Congressional Republicans have vowed for years that they would “repeal and replace" Obamacare, but it has never happened.

What's the likeliest outcome?

It's impossible to say for sure how the court will decide this case — especially now that it has welcomed a new member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The Affordable Care Act has come before the high court and survived more than once, but that was when the court had a very different makeup.

However, legal experts on both sides of the political aisle have said from the start that they consider Texas' legal arguments weak, and many say it's unlikely the court will strike the law down in its entirety. The court could decide to punt the case on a procedural issue. Or it could uphold most of the law, but ax the now-toothless individual mandate and perhaps a few closely related provisions.

“The likeliest outcome is that the justices vote to get rid of the lawsuit, because it's so galactically stupid, to be totally candid," Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor who has followed the case closely, told The Texas Tribune shortly after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. “But I think any confidence you might have had before Justice Ginsburg died that the case would be turned away has surely been shaken. And I think there's a lot more uncertainty about the future of the ACA."

A ruling would likely come sometime next year.

Disclosure: Google has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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George W. Bush congratulates President-elect Joe Biden on his victory: The 'outcome is clear'

"George W. Bush congratulates President-elect Joe Biden on his victory, says the "outcome is clear"" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Former President George W. Bush congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday, sending a clear signal to other Republicans, including President Donald Trump, who are questioning the election results.

"Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country," Bush said in a statement. "The President-elect reiterated that while he ran as a Democrat, he will govern for all Americans. I offered him the same thing I offered Presidents Trump and Obama: my prayers for his success, and my pledge to help in any way I can."

Bush, a Republican who also served as Texas' governor, said he had spoken with the Democratic president-elect and had thanked Biden for "the patriotic message he delivered last night" in his acceptance speech. He also said he called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Bush said that Biden "earned the votes of more than 70 million Americans," but noted that Trump had the right to "request recounts and pursue legal challenges"

"The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld and its outcome is clear," Bush said. "The challenges that face our country will demand the best of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris – and the best of us all. We must come together for the sake of our families and neighbors, and for our nation and its future."

Trump has refused to concede, saying the election was stolen and making unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud. The president's campaign has filed several legal challenges to contest the election results in battleground states. Judges in two of those cases — in Michigan and Georgia — tossed out the lawsuits because the campaign failed to provide evidence that laws were broken. A federal judge also denied the campaign's request to stop counting votes in Philadelphia, but ordered election officials to expand the number of people allowed in the room.

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Some of Texas’ most prominent Republican politicians are spreading misinformation about the election

"As states count votes, some of Texas' most prominent Republican politicians are spreading misinformation about the election" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

As votes continue to be counted in the presidential race, President Donald Trump used both Twitter and the White House to sow doubts about the integrity of the electoral process.

Some of Texas' most prominent Republican politicians, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, have joined the president in amplifying misinformation about the election across their platforms.

Much of the misinformation has been centered on the vote-counting process in states like Pennsylvania, a battleground territory in the race for the presidency. The count in Pennsylvania was expected to be slow because of the large number of mail-in ballots and because state law prevented poll workers from beginning to process them until Election Day.

Cruz appeared on Fox News' “Hannity" on Thursday night and charged that Philadelphia officials are “not allowing the election observers in, despite clear state law that requires election observers being there." U.S. Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Victoria, said on a local radio show Friday morning that it was disturbing “they won't let poll watchers in, after a judge's order, is very telling."

And U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, who appeared in Philadelphia on Friday, raised the possibility, without presenting any evidence, of “manufactured" votes and said “the election is in the process of being stolen."

The claims from Cruz and Cloud about election watchers are not true. In a court hearing Thursday, a lawyer for Trump acknowledged that the team's observers were being allowed in the room, according to WHYY in Philadelphia. When the judge asked if Trump observers were allowed in the room, a Trump attorney answered, “There's a non-zero number of people in the room."

The judge in the case, a Republican appointee, dismissed a lawsuit seeking an end to the count after urging both sides to come to an agreement on how many observers from each party could be in the room where the ballots were being counted.

The counting has been done in the presence of election watchers representing both parties. But Trump has continued to claim, with no evidence, that he is being cheated. Texas politicians and conservative figures have spread falsehoods that have further sowed confusion about those claims.

The vote counting in Philadelphia is taking place at its sprawling convention center. Philadelphia magazine reported that early in the count, observers had to watch the proceedings from distances ranging from approximately 15-105 feet away — making the ability to see the count difficult, according to a Republican observer's testimony. Most notably, one observer was photographed watching the counting with the aid of binoculars. City officials argued that counters needed space to maintain social distancing, security and privacy protections while handling ballots.

After Republican challenges to this, a Pennsylvania state judge ruled Thursday morning that observers must be within 6 feet from the counting and abide by measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Cruz argued Friday morning on Twitter that because of the Thursday state court ruling mandating the 6-foot rule, “Someone 20 ft away—forced to use binoculars—is not an 'observer'... ."

“No one is saying that poll watchers were not in the room in Philadelphia — they are saying they were too far away to actually see anything," a Cloud spokesperson wrote to the Tribune. “That is the conflict going on. You can't see anything from 30 feet away."

Cloud also alleged, without any evidence, that officials “stopped counting in some of these states so that they could, in the morning, come back and count the Trump-heavy areas first, so that they'll know how many more ballots are needed" in absentee votes to overcome that disparity.

When reached for elaboration on these allegations, the Cloud spokesperson noted that Cloud added, “Obviously, I'm here in Texas, I'm not sitting in Philadelphia or Detroit or Atlanta or any of these cities. I'm just saying when I look from here, I don't see a transparent process."

“He is not saying that he has all the answers or knows even what happens but that the process has not been transparent and that they should have been provided greater access," the spokesperson said. “It has not been a transparent process in many of these states. That is his point."

A Cruz spokesperson also weighed in when asked for the senator's source for the allegations.

“Republican poll watchers were denied meaningful access to the ballot processing and counting process in Philadelphia, posing a direct threat to the integrity of our elections," the aide emailed.

“That's why a Pennsylvania court ordered that observers must be allowed within six feet of all aspects of the ballot counting process," the spokesperson added. “As Sen. Cruz has said, the American people have the right to expect votes will be counted fairly, with transparency, and not in secret."

Cruz and other state leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have also been critical of the pace of the counts in key states. As of Friday, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Alaska still had enough votes to count that the results there were uncertain. Texas was still counting votes, too; there just wasn't a small enough margin for them to matter in the presidential race.

“How come it's just the big Democratic cities that can't seem to figure out how to count a damn vote?" Cruz said on Fox News.

In fact, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar unsuccessfully lobbied her state's Republican legislature to allow mail-in vote counting to begin before polls closed on Election Day. Without that approval, the process in Pennsylvania has played out largely as expected. Trump won the majority of votes cast and counted on Election Day — and for months he has discouraged his voters from casting ballots by mail. But the gap narrowed in the days after the vote as mail-in ballots, which have been more likely to go for former Vice President Joe Biden, are counted.

Abbott, who did not respond to a request for comment, raised a similar complaint as Cruz on Twitter on Thursday night.

“Texas swiftly processed more than 11 million votes & quickly announced winners across 2 time zones," he wrote. “To ensure transparency we allow poll watchers from each party to participate in the voting & tally processes.

“What is happening in some states undermines trust in elections," he added.

Texas has not declared winners in its races, though media outlets have projected winners in all but one federal race because the margins are large enough to know who will win.

The state has had its own minor glitches in reporting vote counts, as is usual when it works with 254 counties to administer hundreds of races at a time. For instance, the state's results page showed the wrong candidate leading in a state House race in Fort Bend County the day after Election Day. The secretary of state's office announced the fix on Twitter, saying the county had entered the results incorrectly.

Nor has the state finished counting all its ballots. Tarrant County — the state's third-most-populous county — flipped from red to blue two days after Election Day.

Texas also allows overseas ballots to be counted if they're received five days after Election Day, and military ballots will still be accepted if they are received six days after Election Day. Still, the state was able to report most of its results relatively quickly because, unlike many states, it did not expand absentee balloting during the coronavirus pandemic. Many other states faced unprecedented volumes of mail-in ballots this cycle because millions of voters were reluctant to cast their ballots in person.

Michigan vote-counters were only able to begin their work the day before the election because of a bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by the state's Democratic governor.

A Las Vegas official told a TV affiliate that the delay in the vote count there is going into extended overtime because all “active" voters receive ballots in the mail, and the counting process takes a while in order to ensure no one votes twice.

Detroit officials at one point covered up windows during vote counting because a crush of protesters were filming the process, according to CNN. A city official told the news outlet that the aim was to preserve the secrecy of ballots and to prevent them from being filmed. The official further said that observers and reporters were on the scene watching the process as well.

Samuel Woolley, program director for propaganda research at the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, said disinformation — or the deliberate spread of false information — often begins with a shred of truth. He said comments, such as those from Trump, are “very damaging for people's trust and security and the integrity of the electoral system."

“The process is proceeding as it's meant to proceed," Woolley said. “But people who work to spread disinformation and propaganda are attempting to undermine the process to empower themselves."

A few Republican officials in Texas have gently pushed back against Trump's claims. As Trump was calling for the counting of votes to be halted earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Lubbock, told The Texas Tribune in a statement that “all votes legally cast should count." But, he added without providing details, “there are legitimate concerns regarding the potential for fraud that must be addressed in order for the country to move forward."

Outgoing U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, delivered a more forceful renunciation of the president's claims.

“A sitting president undermining our political process & questioning the legality of the voices of countless Americans without evidence is not only dangerous & wrong, it undermines the very foundation this nation was built upon," he tweeted Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, urged increased transparency and thorough investigations of any allegations of malfeasance. “If Trump loses, he loses. It was never an impossible outcome and we must accept the final results when it is over," he wrote Friday on Twitter.

“It should not be partisan to suggest calmly that investigations occur and the court process plays out," he added. “Americans need to be sure of the winner and loser. The winners should especially want that."

Crenshaw, Cloud, Arrington and five other Texas colleagues wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr asking whether he'd commit to “using all the resources at your disposal to ensure that only legal votes are being counted" and that the count is being done transparently.

And some Republicans doubled down on false accusations.

On Thursday, Cruz shared an unverified video of a person claiming improprieties in the Philadelphia vote count. Twitter has since blocked the video for violating the platform's rules.

And U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, tweeted that “this is the most corrupt election in our lifetime," despite winning his own reelection battle Tuesday by 14 percentage points. “Where is the DOJ and AG?" Twitter later suspended the congressman's campaign account for violating its rules.

Other less high-profile Texas sources have also contributed to the misinformation and seen their messages amplified broadly.

In a now-deleted tweet, Travis County GOP Chairman Matt Mackowiak shared a screenshot Wednesday of Michigan tallies from Decision Desk HQ that suggested that Biden received 100% of the votes in a batch of 138,339 ballots added to the state's count. The influx was due to a data error — a county worker made a typo when entering numbers, and the issue was quickly corrected.

Mackowiak later deleted the tweet, saying it was an honest mistake. But Trump still boosted the claim. “WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?" the president tweeted to his 88 million followers.

Meanwhile, Kellye SoRelle, a Texas attorney, a former state House candidate and a Lawyers for Trump member, recorded a video that went viral purporting to show extra ballots being brought into a Detroit vote-counting facility long after the ballots had been expected to arrive.

The video actually showed a photographer for local TV station WXYZ unloading camera equipment and a cooler, according to one of the station's reporters, Ross Jones.

“He was bringing down equipment for our 12-hour shift," Jones tweeted.

Texas Scorecard, a website created by the hardline conservative political group Empower Texans, published an article with the video that spread through right-wing circles, briefly crashing the site.

Alex Samuels contributed reporting.

Disclosure: The Texas secretary of state and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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Texas soundly rebuffs Democratic efforts to turn the state purple: analysis

"Analysis: Texas voters still fly a red political flag" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Texas is not blue, but after this latest election, its Democrats are.

The party's latest effort to turn Texas its way fell short on Tuesday. Democrats got no wins in statewide races from the presidency to the high courts, and the party's elected officials remain in the minorities of the congressional delegation, the Texas Senate and the Texas House.

Still, Texas Democrats have steadily made it more difficult for Republicans to get things done when the Democrats don't want to go along. With the 2020 general election behind us, the Republican state House majority is intact, but small. The GOP advantage in the Senate has shrunk again, to the point where Republicans will need to change their rules or be forced to win Democratic support to bring legislation before the full Senate for debate.

If the issues of the day were not enough to force Texas lawmakers into practical things, the politics would be.

Those “practical things" are numerous.

The pandemic continues to require action from the state, and many legislators want a say in a response that has so far been a solo act for Gov. Greg Abbott, who's been relying on emergency powers to control everything from business closings to rules for wearing masks.

The staggering economic impact of the pandemic has cut deeply into state revenues, leaving lawmakers with a multibillion-dollar hole in the current two-year budget and larger problems for the two-year budget they will have to write in 2021. The session's financial troubles will start with the first and move to the second, an unwelcome invitation to either cut spending or to find new money to spend.

Issues raised by the killing of George Floyd and others at the hands of police will be on the agenda, including police training, funding, and the liabilities and responsibilities of officers for their own actions on the job.

Lawmakers will probably take up voting and election laws, a persistent source of litigation and argument during this election cycle and an area of law ripe for legislative tinkering and remodeling.

They'll tackle redistricting, drawing political maps that could be used for federal and state legislative races for up to the next 10 years — the issue that persuaded out-of-state Democrats and Republicans to pump millions of dollars into Texas House races this year.

And they'll be doing all of that in a Texas Capitol where social interaction is limited, where there has been talk of limiting the number of bills in order to minimize risks, and of limiting public access to the proceedings.

It's not going to be the kind of session where politicians spend their time arguing about proposed regulations on which bathrooms transgender individuals may use. They have real work to do.

And they have real politics in their way. The Senate, which has been the more conservative chamber for several sessions, has been limited by what it could get past the more moderate, but still Republican House. And the Senate lost a Republican vote on Tuesday night, cutting into the Republican majority there.

It's not that the place became more liberal in this election. The Democrats, with a very few exceptions, fell short.

But what's left is a House with a narrow Republican majority, a Senate with one more Democrat than before, and a Republican governor trying to keep all of the party's factions moving in the same direction.

Texas is not as reliably red as some might think, but after the contentious and expensive 2020 elections, the Democrats haven't been able to make it a blue one.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state. Explore the next 10 years with us.

Rural Texas saved Ted Cruz in 2018. Will it save Donald Trump on Tuesday?

"Rural Texans have long helped Republicans. Will that hold true on Tuesday?" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Rural Texas saved Ted Cruz in 2018. Will it save Donald Trump on Tuesday?

That is one of the defining questions as Texas barrels toward what could be its closest presidential race since 1976 — or the first time the state picks a Democratic presidential nominee since then.

The story of Texas politics in 2020 is about the cities becoming bluer, the suburbs becoming more competitive and the Latino vote rising — but it is also about a rural firewall that has kept Republicans in power for so long. Rural areas of the state have historically been Republicans' strongest line of defense in Texas as polls show suburbs — even in traditionally red areas — shifting toward Democrats. But with the state's changing demographics and a noticeable surge of Democratic energy in deep Trump country, there's an open question of whether Republicans can hold onto these districts with the same large margins they did in 2016.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who chairs Trump's reelection campaign in Texas, called into a Lubbock radio show Thursday with an explicit appeal to rural Texans.

“The margins will depend on all of our great friends and our patriots in West Central and East Texas who say, 'I don't want the president just to win, I want him to stomp the Democrats here 75-25,'" Patrick told host Chad Hasty. “And the bigger rural Texas [votes] will determine the final margin he wins by — is it 4? Is it 6? Is it 8? Is it 3?"

In 2018, Cruz needed the state's rural counties to fend off a blockbuster challenge by Democrat Beto O'Rourke. The former El Paso congressman defeated Cruz 51% to 48% in the non-rural counties, which Trump carried by 3 points in 2016. But Cruz held strong in the rural counties and carried them 75% to 24%, nearly identical to Trump's margin in them two years earlier.

No one expects Smith County, which includes Tyler, to flip to Democratic control after Trump bested Hillary Clinton by more than 67 percentage points in 2016. And no one doubts the passion of GOP voters in red enclaves across the historically Republican counties across Texas and the South. Texas is dominated by Republicans in all levels of state government.

The problem for Republicans is that rural Texas is making up a shrinking share of the statewide vote as population growth largely favors the cities and suburbs. Rural counties contributed 13% of the statewide vote in 2014, 12% in 2016 and 11% in 2018.

And the GOP dominance has not gone unanswered in rural Texas, where Democrats have made investments to at least cut down on their deficits there.

“Republicans are in trouble out here," said Stuart Williams, the West Texas organizer for the Texas Democratic Party. “Trump won in places like Lubbock in 2016 at the lowest level that any Republican had won since 1996. And that was four year ago before we all saw ... what can happen to our country."

Biden's campaign has made some overtures to rural Texas. In mid-October, the campaign hosted a “Rural Texas Community Conversation" with Tom Vilsack, the former U.S. agriculture secretary and Iowa governor. And the campaign did a three-day surrogate bus tour last week whose first three stops were in Amarillo, Lubbock and Abilene. (The tour was derailed Friday after a highway skirmish with Trump supporters south of Austin.)

The Lincoln Project, the anti-Trump group run by former Republican operatives, has also sought to help Biden in rural Texas. In early October, the organization announced a $1 million ad campaign called “Operation Sam Houston" that was aimed at over 600,000 suburban and rural Republican women in Texas.

The divide between rural and non-rural Texas does not just matter for the presidential race. It is poised to factor into other statewide contests, including those for U.S. Senate and a seat on the Railroad Commission, which regulates the Texas oil and gas industry.

In the U.S. Senate election, Republican incumbent John Cornyn has been prioritizing more conservative, rural parts of the state in the closing days of his reelection campaign. He is in the middle of a statewide bus tour whose itinerary is largely filled with cities like Wichita Falls and Tyler.

“We're counting on you," Cornyn said Thursday in Tyler. “We're depending on Tyler, Smith County and East Texas to win this."

Cornyn's Democratic rival, MJ Hegar, said Saturday she was “not concerned at all" about a repeat of 2018, when rural Texas rescued an otherwise vulnerable Republican U.S. senator.

“I grew up in rural Texas, and I know what rural Texas needs," said Hegar, who was raised in Williamson County — north of Austin — when it was less suburban than it is today. “It's why I'm running for office. Rural Texas is hurting because of a lack of access to education and health care, two of the biggest employers in rural Texas. Rural agricultural Texas is hurting because of the China trade war that we're losing right now because of ineffective leadership from the top down."

Democrats say they are also appealing to rural voters with issues such as broadband internet access. Republicans, meanwhile, say their rural voters are energized by Trump's follow-through on campaign promises to restrict abortion and appoint conservative judges.

Republican congressional nominees who do not have competitive races, many from rural areas, have nonetheless hit the campaign trail hard this fall to try to maximize their district's vote for Trump. Right after securing the GOP nomination for the 4th District at a convention in August, Pat Fallon gave a speech in which he said Republicans in the largely rural northeast Texas district “need to make sure we run the score up in CD-4 so we can help President Trump carry this state and save our country."

It's also the mission of Ronny Jackson, the former White House doctor who is set to become the next congressman from Texas' 13th District, the reddest in the country. While Jackson's election is all but guaranteed Tuesday, he said he has been impressing upon voters that they still need to show up for Trump.

“I think it's going to be absolutely crucial," Jackson said. “Texas 13, 19, 11 — these three big rural [congressional] districts out here in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle, we really are the firewall that keeps Texas red. It's just overwhelmingly Republican out here ... and that really does make a difference statewide."

Among Democrats, there's optimism that Biden-backing allies in rural Texas could not only prevent Trump from recreating his overwhelming 2016 margins in white, working class areas, the kind of support that offset his losses in the suburbs and among voters of color four years ago, but also make Trump's path to victory in Texas all the more difficult.

“I'm also seeing a pretty substantial uptick in folks volunteering with Democratic-adjacent organizations," said Amy Hull, 42, who lives in Tarrant County. “It's been interesting to see people who were pretty tuned out four years ago become unapologetic about their politics and determined to do everything possible to make our community, state and country government work better for everyone."

Republicans could especially take heart in rural areas that have only grown more red in recent election cycles. Take for example Jones County, which includes part of Abilene and went for John McCain by 47 points in 2008, Mitt Romney by 55 points in 2012 and Trump by 65 points in 2016.

The county GOP chair, Isaac Castro, said there is “a lot more enthusiasm" for Trump in Jones County compared to four years ago, when some local Republicans had reservations about his conservative credentials.

“I really think that this year he's probably going to do better," Castro said, adding that he was not worried about Trump losing statewide. “You know, West Texas is going to be strong for him again."

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state. Explore the next 10 years with us.

Trump on supporters who surrounded Biden bus: 'These patriots did nothing wrong'

"These patriots did nothing wrong," Trump says of supporters who surrounded Biden bus

""These patriots did nothing wrong," Trump says of supporters who surrounded Biden bus" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

On Sunday evening, President Donald Trump once again cheered on a group of supporters in Texas who surrounded and followed a Biden campaign bus driving up I-35 in Hays County. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was looking into the incident, which happened on Friday and was captured on video from multiple angles.

The "Trump Train" — a caravan of trucks waving Trump and American flags — appeared to try to slow down the Biden campaign bus, as supporters honked their horns and shouted. The confrontation resulted in at least one minor collision and led to Texas Democrats canceling three scheduled campaign events that day, citing "safety concerns."

"In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong. Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!" Trump said in a tweet. He had previously posted one of the videos showing the caravan along with the comment, “I LOVE TEXAS!".

Short for "anti-fascists," antifa is an umbrella term for militant groups that resist white supremacists at demonstrations and other events. Trump has portrayed antifa as an organized group threatening national security, often wrongly conflating the term with Black Lives Matter demonstrators who showed up to protest after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

The FBI has described antifa as an "ideology," not an organization. The agency also named white supremacists one of the deadliest domestic threats in recent years.

Earlier in the day, Trump also claimed his supporters were "protecting" the bus and "being nice" when they slowed it down on the highway, according to media reports from a rally he held in Michigan. By contrast, Naomi Narvaiz, a Texas Republican Party official in San Marcos, told The Texas Tribune that supporters formed the convoy to show they backed Trump. “We don't want any of the values or policies that the Democratic Party is embracing," she said.

As the FBI continues its investigation, at least one state official has called for the state to step in. State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, sent a letter to the Texas Department of Public Safety asking the agency to open an investigation into the "multi-county, criminal behavior on 1-35" and "use the full weight of its resources to hold these criminals accountable."

DPS officials have opened an investigation into the incident, according to Austin American-Statesman reporter Tony Plohetski.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

The Texas Tribune is proud to celebrate 10 years of exceptional journalism for an exceptional state. Explore the next 10 years with us.

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