Republican-controlled Texas House impeaches and suspends Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton

AUSTIN, Texas — The Republican-led House of Representatives in Texas impeached state attorney general Ken Paxton on Saturday over articles including bribery and abuse of public trust. This is a sudden and historic denunciation of a Republican official who has become a star of conservative legal circles. Despite years of scandals and allegations of crime, the movement continues.

The impeachment will immediately suspend Paxton pending trial in the state Senate and give Republican Governor Greg Abbott the power to temporarily appoint another person as Texas’ top attorney.

“Today’s ugly spectacle in the Texas House of Representatives confirmed that the outrageous impeachment plan against me was never meant to be fair or just,” Paxton said. “It was a politically motivated scam from the beginning.”

Paxton has been under investigation by the FBI for years for allegedly using his office to help donors, and was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, but has yet to face trial. The party has long been silent on the allegations, but that changed this week when 60 of 85 House Republicans, including Speaker Dade Phelan, voted in favor of impeachment. bottom.

Rep. David Spiller, a Republican member of the committee that investigated Mr. Paxton, said in his opening statement that “no person should be above the law, especially not the head of the legal system in Texas.” Another Republican committee member, Rep. Charlie Jellen, declined to elaborate that Mr. Paxton called some lawmakers before the vote and threatened political “consequences.”

Lawmakers allied with Paxton tried to discredit the investigation by pointing out that it was hired investigators, not panel members, who interviewed witnesses. He also said some of the investigators voted in the Democratic primaries and tainted impeachment, and that there was far too little time to consider the evidence.

Rep. Tony Tinderholt, one of the House’s most conservative lawmakers, said before the vote, “We recognize the potential for political weaponization of this.” Republican Rep. John Smithee likened the case to “a mob at a Saturday afternoon lynching.”

Paxton is automatically suspended until the Senate trial begins. A final impeachment would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, where Paxton’s wife, Angela, belongs.

The governor’s representatives, who praised Mr. Paxton when he was sworn in for a third term in January, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about his temporary replacement.

Before the vote, President Trump and Senator Ted Cruz defended Paxton, saying the senators called the impeachment process a “farce” and that the attorney general’s legal matters should be left to the courts.

“Free Ken Paxton,” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social, warning that “I will fight you” if House Republicans proceed with impeachment.

In some ways, Mr. Paxton’s political crisis has arrived with dizzying speed. A House committee investigation was revealed on Tuesday, and by Thursday, lawmakers had issued Article 20 articles of impeachment.

Mark P. Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University, said the quick move to impeach Mr. Paxton did not attract a large following, allowing quietly disaffected Republicans to unite.

“If you ask most Republicans personally, they feel Paxton is an embarrassment. But most people were too afraid of the bases to oppose him,” Jones said. Voting as a large bloc gives lawmakers political cover, he added.

But for longtime Paxton detractors, this rebuke came years too late.

He admitted to violating Texas securities laws in 2014 and was indicted a year later on securities fraud charges for defrauding investors in a tech startup near his hometown of Dallas. He has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts that carry a possible sentence of five to 99 years.

He set up a legal defense fund and received $100,000 from a company executive under investigation by the Paxton office for Medicaid fraud. Another $50,000 was donated by an Arizona retiree whose son, Paxton, later got a high-profile job but was quickly fired for showing child pornography at a rally. In 2020, Paxton intervened in a mountain community in Colorado. There, Texas donors and college classmates faced eviction from their lakeside homes due to coronavirus mandates.

But it was Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate developer Nate Paul that ultimately unleashed the impeachment push.

In 2020, eight aides told the FBI they feared Mr. Paxton was abusing his office to help Mr. Paul. Over the developer’s unsubstantiated allegations that an elaborate conspiracy is underway to steal $200 million of Paul’s fortune. The FBI raided Paul’s home in 2019, but he has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. Paxton also told staff he had an affair with a woman who was later found to have worked for Paul.

In the impeachment proceedings, Paxton is accused of trying to intervene in foreclosure proceedings and issuing legal opinions that benefit Paul. The bribery charges allege that Paul hired a woman who had an affair with Paxton in exchange for legal assistance and paid for expensive renovations to the Attorney General’s home. Paxton’s firm’s senior attorney, Chris Hilton, said Friday that the attorney general paid for all repairs and renovations.

Other charges, including falsehoods against investigators, date back to Mr. Paxton’s pending securities fraud indictment.

Four of Paxton’s aides who referred him to the FBI then filed a lawsuit under the Texas Whistleblower Act, and in February Paxton agreed to a $3.3 million settlement. A House committee said Paxton had sought legislative approval for the payments that sparked the investigation.

“However, Paxton will not be impeached because of the taxpayer’s demand for settlement of Paxton’s own misconduct,” the commission said.


Breiburg reported from Dallas.

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