Texas House recommends impeaching Attorney General Ken Paxton

A Republican-led committee of the Texas House of Representatives has recommended impeaching the state’s GOP attorney general Ken Paxton over years of claims he abused his office.

Paxton has been accused of many crimes while in power and has been at the center of spat among senior Republican party members after he claimed House Speaker Dade Phelan was drunk during votes.

The committee has been secretly looking into Paxton for months, and a vote setting up his removal from office could happen as soon as Friday.

Paxton, who asked the Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden‘s 2020 win, has claimed the investigation is purely political, and has attacked the leadership of the state GOP for being too ‘liberal’.

When the five-member committee’s investigation came to light Tuesday, Paxton suggested it was a political attack by the House’s ‘liberal’ Republican speaker, Dade Phelan. 

A Republican-led committee of the Texas House of Representatives has recommended impeaching the state’s GOP attorney general Ken Paxton over years of claims he abused his office

He called for Phelan´s resignation and accused him of being drunk during a marathon session last Friday. Phelan´s office has brushed off the accusation as Paxton attempting to ‘save face.’

‘It’s is a sad day for Texas as we witness the corrupt political establishment unite in this illegitimate attempt to overthrow the will of the people and disenfranchise the voters of our state,’ Paxton said in a statement Thursday, calling the committee´s findings ‘hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims.’ 

By 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´s usually 150-member House chamber, which Republicans now control 85-64, since a GOP representative resigned ahead of an expected vote to expel him over the finding that he had inappropriate sexual conduct with an intern.

It´s unclear how many supporters Paxton may have in the House. Since the prospect of impeachment suddenly emerged Wednesday, none of Texas other top Republicans have voiced support for Paxton.

Investigative committee members, which include three Republicans and two Democrats, did not reveal details about the articles of impeachment when they voted to approve them in open session and a copy had not been made public by Thursday evening.

The timing of a vote by the House also is unclear. Rep. Andrew Murr, the Republican chair of the investigative committee, said he did not have a timeline and Phelan´s office declined to comment.

Unlike in Congress, impeachment in Texas requires immediate removal from office until a trial is held in the Senate. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott could appoint an interim replacement. Final removal would require two-thirds support in the Senate, where Paxton´s wife´s, Angela, is a member.

Paxton, 60, faces ouster at the hands of GOP lawmakers just seven months after easily winning a third term over challengers – among them George P. Bush – who had urged voters to reject a compromised incumbent but discovered that many didn’t know about Paxton’s litany of alleged misdeeds or dismissed the accusations as political attacks.

Even with Monday´s end of the regular session approaching, state law allows the House to keep working on impeachment proceedings. It also could call itself back into session later. The Senate has the same options.

In one sense, Paxton’s political peril arrived with dizzying speed: The House committee investigation came to light Tuesday, followed the next day by an extraordinary public airing of alleged criminal acts he committed as one of Texas’ most powerful figures.

But to Paxton’s detractors, who now include a widening share of his own party in the Texas Capitol, the rebuke was years in the making.

In 2014, he admitted to violating Texas securities law over not registering as an investment advisor while soliciting clients. 

A year later, Paxton was indicted on felony securities charges by a grand jury in his hometown near Dallas, where he was accused of defrauding investors in a tech startup. 

He has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts that carry 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 under investigation 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 job but was soon fired after trying to make a point by displaying child pornography in a meeting.

What has unleashed the most serious risk to Paxton is his relationship with another wealthy donor, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.

Several of Paxton’s top aides in 2020 said they became concerned the attorney general was misusing the powers of his office to help Paul over unproven claims that an elaborate conspiracy to steal $200 million of his properties was afoot. 

The FBI searched Paul’s home in 2019 but he has not been charged and his attorneys have 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 quit 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 payout and Phelan has said he doesn’t think taxpayers should foot the bill.

Shortly after the settlement was reached, the House investigation into Paxton began. The probe amounted to rare scrutiny of Paxton in the state Capitol, where many Republicans have long taken a muted posture about the accusations that have followed the attorney general.

Only twice has the Texas House impeached a sitting official: Gov. James Ferguson in 1917 and state Judge O.P. Carrillo in 1975.

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