The Republican-led House in Texas began a debate Saturday afternoon over whether to impeach the state’s Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton after a long string of scandals and possible crimes.
Lawmakers introduced 20 articles of impeachment against the three-term attorney general, whose antics have rattled the Texas GOP. A vote is expected later Saturday.
An affirmative vote would mean Paxton would be suspended as the state’s top law enforcement official pending the outcome of a trial in the Texas Senate, with Gov. Greg Abbott (R) given the option of appointing a acting attorney general.
The timing of a trial would be uncertain, however, given that the current Texas legislative session ends on Monday.
A Republican-led investigative committee earlier this week laid out the various ways Paxton is accused of abusing his office’s power through corruption, retaliation and a culture of fear.
The committee recommended on Wednesday that Paxton be impeached in a hearing that drew an outraged response from the attorney general, who accused Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan. to be “liberal” who was drunk at work.
Phelan’s office told local outlet KDFW that the attorney general was simply trying to “save face.”
Meanwhile, Texas Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi sided with Paxton in the impeachment and accused Phelan to try “to stop the conservative leadership of our state” by working with Democrats.
Paxton has been a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and has called himself a conservative culture warrior. He proved popular with voters in Texas. Trump himself has threatened state lawmakers if the vote goes against his ally, writing on social media: “I will fight you if it does.”
Paxton is accused of using his office to help a political donor, Austin-based real estate developer Nate Paul, navigate legal entanglements in exchange for a home renovation for Paxton and a job for a woman with whom Paxton had an affair.
In 2020, a group of Paxton’s top aides came forward to accuse the attorney general of abusing his power. A few weeks later, several of them were fired. Whistleblowers quickly sued Paxton, and that case culminated in a $3.3 million settlement agreement in February. There are, however, tensions over how the money will be disbursed; Phelan and other lawmakers are against using taxpayer funds to cover up Paxton’s misconduct.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at then-President Donald Trump’s rally on January 6, 2021, just before rioters stormed the Capitol.
That’s not even the extent of Paxton’s legal woes. In 2015, he was charged with securities fraud in a case that is still unfolding eight years later due to ongoing procedural delays.
Last spring, he was slapped by a Texas State Bar malpractice suit over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results with alleged evidence of voter fraud. Paxton retaliated by barring his aides from speaking at state bar events, according to the Texas Tribune.
In September, he ran out of his house and jumped into a truck driven by his wife to avoid being subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit relating to one of Texas’ tough anti-abortion laws.