New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu criticizes Texas AG Paxton’s “embarrassing” acquittal, citing clear evidence

(Reagan Mcgregor Hicks/Texas Tribune, Reagan Mcgregor Hicks/Texas Tribune)

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New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday the acquittal of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at the end of his impeachment trial last week was “completely embarrassing” because the evidence was clear against the state’s top lawyer, adding that the final decision “seemed like it was a baked-in vote before it started.”

“These things are really bad for America,” Sununu, a Republican, said during the opening keynote of the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival about the recent impeachments of Paxton, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. “In this case in Texas, it looked like, to me, it was very justified and he probably should have been found guilty, and I don’t mind saying that.”

Texas senators, who acted as jurors in Paxton’s trial, voted Saturday to acquit the attorney general in 16 articles of impeachment that accused him of abuse of office and bribery.

Sununu’s remarks during a conversation with Tribune co-founder Evan Smith arrived near the end of him laying out his vision for a future in which the Republican Party moves away from Trump. But despite his criticism, he played down concerns about the former president, at one point saying Trump was “too dumb to be a danger” for democracy.

Still, he said he wanted a Republican to replace Biden in next year’s election. In order to get a Republican in the White House, he said candidates running for the party’s nomination should consider dropping out of the race if they don’t qualify for debates — and that donors should cut off their support from underperforming candidates to help narrow the field to the best challengers.

Sununu said he ruled out running for president because it would have been hard on his family.

The vision of the Republican Party he described stood in stark contrast to the GOP’s reality in Texas, where state leaders have constantly focused on social issues that Sununu said are best dealt with at the local level.

“Look, low taxes, limited government, local control … the government isn’t here to solve your problems — it’s not,” Sununu said to a few cheers. “I don’t know what your needs are, I don’t know what your business needs are, I don’t know what your kids’ needs are in education. So my job is to open as many doors of opportunity for you, your family, your business.”

“You decide what door is best for you, not me,” he added.

Sununu also said abortion was up to states, which drew boos from the audience. He criticized Biden for the state of the economy, calling inflation “the worst tax on the poor” and pointing to soaring credit card debt.

During other moments, he cast a sense of hope and optimism.

“We have an amazing system here in this country,” he said. “I might not like the policies of the left, you might not like the policies of the right, but that doesn’t mean that our whole foundations and our system are going to crumble, because at the end of the day the most important part still stands: You have the vote, you have the say.”