Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing possible impeachment after a Texas House committee voted unanimously to recommend the move following several hours of testimony regarding his alleged wrongdoings.
Late on May 25, the House General Investigating Committee filed 20 articles of impeachment against the state’s top prosecutor (pdf). The accusations against Paxton, 60, include misuse of official powers, bribery, and abuse of public trust over several years.
“There is a reason CNN called Texas ‘a legal graveyard for Biden policies,’” Paxton said in a statement posted on Twitter. “I am doing exactly what the voters elected me to do. It 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.”
The House of Representatives will vote on the committee’s recommendation on May 27.
“Texas faces a critical moment for the rule of law and the will of Texas voters. Only months ago, Texans went to the polls and made a choice. They made their choice during a primary where over 1.5 million Texans cast their vote. They made a choice again where over 8 million people voted in the general election,” Paxton said.
He accused the committee members of attempting to oust him from office over false claims.
“Just yesterday, four liberal lawyers put forward a report to the House General Committee based on hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims. Today, that Committee has asked the House of Representatives to use their unsubstantiated report to overturn the results of a free and fair election,” he continued.
Paxton said that neither he nor his office had been given an opportunity to address the allegations.
“This process has provided no opportunity for rebuttal or due process. They even refused to allow a senior attorney from my office to provide the facts,” he said. “They rejected every attempt to seek a full accounting of the truth.”
Paxton Makes Accusation
On May 23, Paxton accused House Speaker Dade Phelan of being drunk while presiding on the House floor on May 19, calling for the fourth-term Republican lawmaker’s resignation over his conduct.
The speaker’s office said Paxton’s call for Phelan’s resignation was motivated by the House Ethics Committee’s investigation of a $3.3 million whistleblower settlement the attorney general reached with four former employees who accused him of corruption.
Phelan did not respond to Paxton’s allegations of misconduct.
“By attacking the Office of the Attorney General, corrupt politicians in the Texas House, led by liberal Speaker Dade Phelan, are actively destroying Texas’ position as the most powerful backstop against the Biden agenda in the entire country,” Paxton said in the statement.
“They want nothing more than to sabotage our legal challenges to Biden’s extremist agenda by taking me out as the state’s Attorney General.”
Much of the House Committee’s inquiry during a May 24 hearing revolved around allegations made by the whistleblowers who accused Paxton of using his office’s resources to help campaign donor and real estate developer Nate Paul on several occasions in 2020.
When Did Investigation Begin?
In March, Paxton asked the House Appropriation subcommittee to fund the multimillion-dollar whistleblower settlement. At about the same time, the House Committee began its investigation into the allegations surrounding the case.
In October 2020, eight top deputies in Paxton’s agency told the FBI that they believed the attorney general had used his office to help Paul, who had donated $25,000 to Paxton’s reelection campaign in 2018.
All of the whistleblowers were fired or resigned, but the allegations led to a federal investigation into Paxton.
In February, the Department of Justice took over the investigation, but no federal charges have been filed against Paxton or Paul.
Paul had come under federal investigation in 2019 relating to a legal conflict between his businesses and a charitable organization. The real estate developer was “entangled in lawsuits and facing as many as 13 foreclosures by 2020,” according to the House Committee hearing transcript (pdf).
When a case involves a charitable organization, the office of the attorney general is notified.
According to testimony, Paul allegedly renovated Paxton’s home in 2020 as a “gift.”
What Happens Next?
If the GOP-majority House gets enough votes to move forward, the Senate would hold a trial to determine whether to remove the Republican lawmaker who was elected to a third term in November.
Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton, who is a member of the Senate, would be required to vote on her husband’s fate. Texas law states that “each member of the [S]enate shall be in attendance when the [S]enate is meeting as a court of impeachment.”
Angela Paxton has not yet publicly commented on the allegations against her husband, which include the cover-up of an alleged affair with a woman who got a job working for one of her husband’s campaign donors.
“Senator Angela Paxton reportedly learned of the affair in 2019, that the affair ended briefly, but then it resumed in 2020 and was underway again in 2020,” according to the transcript of the committee’s hearing on May 24.
Gov. Greg Abbott has not commented on the articles of impeachment against Paxton.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told WFAA-TV that if the impeachment goes to a Senate trial, “We will all be responsible—as any juror would be—if that turns out to be.”
Patrick refused to comment on whether the Senate would have enough votes to convict. The Republican lawmaker would preside over the trial but would not cast a vote.
Chris Hilton, Paxton’s chief of general litigation, called the committee’s investigation “illegal,” NBC News reported.
Hilton said the “impeachment is completely foreclosed by Texas Law” in Paxton’s case because the allegations predate the most recent election, Hilton said.
Removal from office would require a two-thirds majority of the Senate. There are 31 members of the Senate: 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
If the House is conducting impeachment proceedings when the regular legislative session ends, it will be allowed to continue, adjourn, or reconvene at a later time, according to The Texas Tribune.
The Texas Legislative session ends on May 29.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.