A Republican-led committee in the Texas House of Representatives has recommended impeaching the state’s GOP attorney general, Ken Paxton, after years of claims he abused his office.
Paxton has been charged with numerous crimes while in office and has been at the center of arguments among senior Republican Party officials after he claimed House Speaker Dade Phelan was drunk during votes.
The committee has been secretly examining Paxton for months, and a vote to impeach him could take place as early as Friday.
Paxton, who asked the Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, claimed the investigation was purely political and attacked the state’s GOP leadership for being too “liberal.”
When the five-member committee’s investigation came to light on Tuesday, Paxton suggested it was a political attack by “liberal” Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan.
A Republican-led committee in the Texas House of Representatives has recommended impeaching the state’s GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton after years of claims he abused his office
“This is a sad day for Texas as we see the corrupt political establishment unite in this illegitimate attempt to subvert the will of the people and rob voters of our state,” Paxton said in a statement Thursday. calling the committee’s findings “hearsay and gossip, repeating claims long refuted.
Moving against him, Paxton said, “The RINOs in the Texas Legislature are now on the same side as Joe Biden.”
Impeachment requires a majority vote of the state House chamber, usually made up of 150 members, which Republicans now control 85 to 64, since a GOP representative resigned ahead of a scheduled vote to evict him on the conclusion that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with an intern.
It’s unclear how many supporters Paxton may have in the House. Since the prospect of impeachment suddenly surfaced on Wednesday, none of the other leading Republicans in Texas have voiced support for Paxton.
Members of the investigating committee, which includes three Republicans and two Democrats, did not reveal details of the articles of impeachment when they voted to approve them in open session and a copy had not been made public. Thursday evening.
The timing of a vote by the House is also unclear. Rep. Andrew Murr, Republican chairman of the inquiry, said he didn’t have a timeline and Phelan’s office declined to comment.
Unlike Congress, impeachment in Texas requires immediate removal until a trial takes place in the Senate. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott could appoint an interim replacement. Permanent withdrawal would require two-thirds support in the Senate, of which Paxton’s wife, Angela, is a member.
Paxton, 60, faces being ousted by GOP lawmakers just seven months after easily winning a third term against his challengers – among them George P. Bush — who had urged voters to reject a compromised incumbent, but found many were unaware of Paxton’s litany of alleged misdeeds or dismissed the charges as political attacks.
Even as the end of Monday’s regular session nears, state law allows the House to continue working on impeachment proceedings. He could also remember in session later. The Senate has the same options.
In a sense, Paxton’s political peril has come at breakneck speed: The House committee’s investigation came to light on Tuesday, followed the next day by an extraordinary public broadcast of alleged criminal acts he committed as a as one of the most powerful figures in Texas.
But for Paxton’s critics, who now include a growing portion of his own party in the Texas Capitol, the rebuke has gone on for years.
In 2014, he admitted to violating Texas securities law by not registering as an investment adviser while soliciting clients. A year later, Paxton was indicted on a felony by a grand jury in his hometown near Dallas, where he was charged with defrauding investors in a tech startup. He pleaded not guilty to two counts carrying a potential sentence of five to 99 years in prison.
He opened a legal defense fund and accepted $100,000 from an executive whose company was being investigated by Paxton’s office for Medicaid fraud. An additional $50,000 was donated by an Arizona retiree whose son Paxton later hired to a high-ranking position but was promptly fired after attempting to make a point by posting child pornography at a meeting.
What triggered the most serious risk for Paxton was his relationship with another wealthy donor, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.
Several of Paxton’s top aides in 2020 have said they fear the attorney general will be abuse the powers of his office to help Paul on unproven allegations that an elaborate conspiracy to steal $200 million from his properties was underway. The FBI searched Paul’s home in 2019, but he was not charged and his attorneys denied wrongdoing. Paxton also told staff members that he had an affair with a woman who, it later emerged, worked for Paul.
Paxton’s aides accused him of corruption and were all fired or resigned after reporting him to the FBI. Four sued under Texas whistleblower laws, accusing Paxton of wrongful retaliation, and in February agreed to settle the case for $3.3 million. But the Texas House must approve the payment, and Phelan said he doesn’t think taxpayers should foot the bill.
Shortly after the settlement was reached, the House investigation into Paxton began. The investigation amounted to a rare scrutiny of Paxton in the state Capitol, where many Republicans have long taken a silent stance on the charges that followed the attorney general.
Only twice has the Texas House removed a sitting official: Governor James Ferguson in 1917 and State Judge OP Carrillo in 1975.