By Jamie Gangel and Chandelis Duster, CNN
Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in his bid for re-election, snubbing George P. Bush despite his firm support after Trump has belittled some members of the Bush family.
“Ken is strong on Crime, Border Security, the Second Amendment, Election Integrity and, above all, our Constitution,” Trump said in a statement released Monday, adding that Paxton is a “true Texan who will keep Texas safe.”
While the Bush family and Trump have clashed over the years — most notably when Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush battled it out in the 2016 presidential primary — George P. Bush supported the former President in 2016 and 2020 and told reporters when he launched his campaign in June that he had asked Trump for his endorsement and “would love to have his support.”
Bush, who is the current Texas land commissioner, is the son of Jeb Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush and the grandson of the late former President George H.W. Bush.
Asked by CNN at that event about the attacks Trump has made on his family, Bush conceded that “politics is a contact sport.”
“We’re at a stage in our state where, you know, we can’t let a mean tweet get in the way of doing the right thing,” he said.
Trump, who continues to have a strong hold on the GOP, said in May he liked both candidates “very much” and that he would make an endorsement in future. But a source with knowledge of the meeting also told CNN that when Bush met with Trump in New York, the 45th President assured Bush that he would stay out of the race and that he wouldn’t make an endorsement but the source added that was never going to happen. One source called Bush naive.
According to a GOP source, Trump endorsing Paxton is like Lucy and the football and Charlie Brown. Even sources close to Bush believed this is exactly what would happen and warned him not to publicly play up to the former President because Trump would once again take glee in embarrassing the Bush family.
Trump remains influential in GOP primary races and Paxton has been the target of controversy, but a senior GOP source in Texas said barring a bombshell, Trump’s endorsement means Paxton will win.
Bush had made the phrase “honor and integrity” a theme of his announcement speech, echoing a refrain often used by his uncle. Asked at his announcement if he thought that message will work in his campaign, he said: “Absolutely, I can take all the tips I can get, whether it’s W. or Trump.”
As land commissioner since 2015, Bush has been viewed by political observers as a rising star in the Republican Party. He speaks Spanish and was involved in the founding of the political group Hispanic Republicans of Texas. He was also an officer in the Navy Reserves and a former businessman, with a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.
Paxton, a staunch ally of Trump, has been state attorney general since 2015 and was highly active in filing federal lawsuits during the Obama administration. He notably led a 20-state challenge against the Affordable Care Act, has filed multiple suits against the Biden administration over a range of issues from immigration to Medicaid and led the lawsuit contesting election results in four states that Trump lost in November. The Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit.
Paxton also is currently under indictment for securities fraud and, separately, facing an FBI investigation for abuse of office. He has denied the charges and allegations.
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CNN’s Brian Rokus and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.