Texas officials tried to play it cool. According to a statement from the secretary of state’s office the same day, “the Secretary of State has the authority to conduct a full and comprehensive forensic audit of any election and has already begun the process in Texas’ two largest Democrat counties and two largest Republican counties.” In fact, three of the counties under audit had been won by President Joe Biden in 2020.
Abbott similarly made the public claim that he was already doing the thing Trump wanted, more or less, even if he wasn’t pressing to pass the specific bill Trump wanted. Audits “began months ago,” he said on Fox News.
But, whoops, election officials in at least one of the counties under audit—for months, supposedly—found out that they were being audited from that Thursday press release from the secretary of state’s office. Not only that, but “[o]ne Texas official told CNN that even officials inside the secretary of state’s office were unaware of any audit underway.”
Gosh, it sure sounds like Trump’s demand caught Texas Republicans off guard, which makes sense, because why would Trump demand an investigation, out of the blue, into the votes in a state he won by six points? That must be one of the fun things about being a high-level Republican these days: The guy who rules your world might at any moment make a bizarre demand, and you know you have to make a big show of obeying it lest he attack you—with his mob eagerly joining the attacks.
Trump said jump. Greg Abbott insisted state officials were already jumping, while his staff scrambled to figure out exactly how high Trump wanted them to jump.