HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Former President Donald Trump will launch his 2024 election campaign in Waco on Saturday.
The date falls as the city marks 30 years since a 51-day cult standoff with the federal government killed 86 people there. The Trump campaign denies the connection - instead citing the city's central location.
Dr. Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, called the explanation "unconvincing."
"Trump is trying to draw a parallel between the alleged federal government overreach in the Branch Davidian massacre 30 years ago and his current legal status today," Jones believes.
Trump warned supporters that he could be arrested in New York this week for alleged hush money payments made to adult star Stormy Daniels. On Friday morning, he warned online of potential "death & destruction" if that were the case.
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The violent backdrop is politically challenging for Texas Republicans - many of whom had already begun distancing themselves from Trump after Jan. 6.
Of the nine GOP lawmakers ABC13 reached out to, only one, Congressman Wesley Hunt, confirmed he would be attending the event.
A statement given to ABC13 read in part, "I am proud to have been invited to speak at President Trump's rally in Waco, Texas, on Saturday. I was one of the first members of Congress, and in the great State of Texas, to fully endorse Donald Trump for President, and I stand behind my decision."
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton, and Congressman Troy Nehls (TX-22) did not respond.
Congressman Randy Weber (TX-14), Sen. Ted Cruz, Congressman Dan Crenshaw (TX-2), and Congressman Michael Cloud (TX-27) said they would not be attending.
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None of the nine lawmakers denounced the event. They did not respond to requests for comments on the event's date and location. They also declined interview requests.
Congressman Weber cited "prior commitments." Cruz's spokesperson said, "he will be in Houston with his family." Crenshaw's office told ABC13, "he already has something scheduled."
"What Republicans have learned is you cannot be critical of Donald Trump and hope to win a Republican primary in Texas," Jones said.
As recently as last month, more than two-thirds of Texas Republicans indicated in a University of Texas and Texas Politics Project Poll that they do not believe President Biden won legitimately. An analysis of surveys conducted from February 2022 to February 2023 completed by Jim Henson and Josh Blank found Trump's unfavourability among Texas Republican voters ranged from 9-17%.
"Donald Trump specializes in putting Republicans in difficult positions, and this is no exception," Jones said.