Texas House Poised To Impeach Attorney General

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was on the verge of impeachment on Thursday, following years of controversy, criminal charges, and corruption allegations that the state’s Republican majority has mostly ignored until now.

A Republican-led House investigative committee that spent months discreetly investigating Paxton recommended impeaching him on 20 articles, including bribery, unfitness for office, and abuse of public trust, in a unanimous decision. The recommendation might be voted on by the House as soon as Friday. If the House impeaches Paxton, he will be obliged to resign immediately.

“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, calling the committee’s findings “hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims.”

The move sets up what may be a stunning downfall for one of the GOP’s most prominent legal opponents, who requested the US Supreme Court in 2020 to overturn President Joe Biden’s triumph. Only two officials have been impeached in Texas’ nearly 200-year history.

For years, Paxton has been under FBI investigation for allegedly using his office to aid a donor. He was indicted on securities fraud charges separately in 2015, but has yet to stand trial.

When the probe by the five-member committee was revealed on Tuesday, Paxton indicated it was a political attack by the House’s “liberal” Republican speaker, Dade Phelan. During a marathon session last Friday, he demanded Phelan’s resignation and accused him of being inebriated. The charge was dismissed by Phelan’s office as Paxton wanting to “save face.”

Impeachment requires a majority vote in the state’s normally 150-member House chamber, which Republicans now control 85-64 after a Republican lawmaker resigned before a vote to expel him.

Paxton’s support in the House, where he served five terms before becoming a state senator, is unknown. Since the possibility of impeachment arose on Wednesday, none of Texas’ other prominent Republicans have expressed support for Paxton.

The investigating committee’s articles of impeachment, which comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, are based mostly on Paxton’s relationship with one of his affluent contributors. They focus largely on Paxton’s purported efforts to shield the contributor from an FBI inquiry as well as his efforts to obstruct whistleblower charges filed by his own employees.

The timing of a House vote is unknown. Rep. Andrew Murr, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he didn’t have a timetable.

Unlike in Congress, impeachment in Texas necessitates immediate removal from office until a Senate trial is held. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, could name an interim replacement.

The Senate, where Paxton’s wife, Angela, is a member, would need to vote two-thirds to remove him.

Paxton, 60, is facing impeachment by GOP lawmakers just seven months after easily winning a third term over challengers, including George P. Bush, who had urged voters to reject a compromised incumbent but discovered that many were unaware of Paxton’s litany of alleged misdeeds or dismissed the accusations as political attacks.

The attorney general called the possibility of impeachment “a critical moment for the rule of law and the will of Texas voters.”

Even though the regular session ends on Monday, state law allows the House to continue working on impeachment procedures. It could possibly call itself back into session at a later time.

Paxton’s troubles

Paxton admitted in 2014 to violating Texas securities law by failing to register as an investment advisor while recruiting clients. A year later, a grand jury indicted him on felony securities charges in his birthplace near Dallas, accusing him of scamming investors in a tech business. He has pled not guilty to two felony counts, which carry a potential jail sentence of five to 99 years.

He established a legal defense fund and collected $100,000 from an executive whose company was being investigated for Medicaid fraud by Paxton’s office. An extra $50,000 was provided by an Arizona retiree whose son Paxton was later employed to a high-ranking position but was quickly sacked after attempting to make a point in a meeting by exposing child pornography.

The most serious risk to Paxton, however, is his association with another wealthy donor, Austin real estate entrepreneur Nate Paul.

Several of Paxton’s top staffers informed the FBI in 2020 that they were afraid the attorney general was abusing his powers to support Paul over unfounded claims of a complex plot to steal $200 million from his properties. The FBI conducted a search of Paul’s home in 2019, but he has not been prosecuted, and his attorneys have denied any wrongdoing. Paxton also revealed to staff workers that he was having an affair with a woman who worked for Paul.

The impeachment charges contain a wide range of allegations concerning Paxton’s interactions with Paul. Allegations include attempting to meddle with foreclosure lawsuits and improperly giving legal opinions in favor of Paul, as well as terminating, intimidating, and interfering with employees who reported what was going on. The bribery charges derive from Paul allegedly hiring the lady with whom Paxton had an affair in exchange for legal assistance, as well as Paul allegedly paying for costly upgrades to Paxton’s Austin house.

Other allegations stem from Paxton’s still-pending felony securities fraud indictment in 2015, such as lying to state investigators.

The eight aides who reported Paxton to the FBI were all dismissed or departed, and four eventually sued under Texas’ whistleblower law. Paxton agreed to a $3.3 million settlement in February. However, the reimbursement must be approved by the Texas House, and Phelan has stated that he does not believe taxpayers should foot the bill.

The House probe into Paxton began shortly after the settlement was finalized. The investigation was a rare scrutiny at Paxton in the state Capitol, where many Republicans have long been silent about the allegations that have haunted him.

Information for this briefing was found via AP News, The New York Times, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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