Why Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Impeachment Fight Isn’t Over Yet

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas legislature has already made a historic decision with its removal from office of Republican state attorney general Ken Paxton. Another arrives.

The GOP-led House of Representatives on Saturday approved 20 articles of impeachment over broad allegations of wrongdoing that have dogged the state’s top lawyer for years, including abuse of power and bribery. The vote immediately suspended Paxton from office.

But the intraparty tussle in the nation’s largest conservative state, which even drew political blows from former President Donald Trump on Saturday, is far from over. The Republican-controlled Senate will then hold Paxton’s trial, and he and his allies hope conservatives save him.

One of the members of this chamber is his wife, State Senator Angela Paxton, and she could vote on the political future of her husband, who is now in danger in part because of corruption allegations linked to his extramarital affair.


Impeachment in Texas is similar to the process at the federal level: after the House action, the Senate holds its trial.

It is still to be programmed.

The House needed only a simple majority of its 149 members to impeach Paxton, and the final vote of 121 to 23 was a landslide. But the threshold for conviction in the Senate trial is higher, requiring a two-thirds majority of its 31 members.

If that happened, Paxton would be permanently banned from holding office in Texas. Anything less means Paxton is acquitted and can resume his third term as attorney general.

Paxton bitterly criticized the chamber’s investigation as “corrupt”, secretive and conducted so quickly that he and his lawyers were not allowed to mount a defense. He also called Republican House Speaker Dade a “liberal.”

The Senate is led by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Like Paxton, he is a Republican who has been closely allied with Trump, and he has led Texas’ right-wing political and political push over the past decade. Patrick has yet to comment on the impeachment or the House allegations.

The Senate will set its own trial rules, including whether to hear witness testimony and what reports and documents to consider. He could also consider excusing Angela Paxton from voting due to a conflict of interest.

The impeachment charges include bribery related to one of Paxton’s donors, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who allegedly employed the woman he had an affair with in exchange for legal help.

State law requires that all senators be present for an impeachment trial.


Paxton’s impeachment was driven from the start by his fellow Republicans, unlike the most prominent recent impeachment examples in the United States.

Trump’s impeachments in 2020 and 2021 were driven by Democrats who had majority control of the US House. In both cases, the charges they approved failed in the Senate, where Republicans had enough votes to block sentencing.

In Texas, Republicans have large majorities in both houses, and the state’s GOP leaders hold all the levers of influence.

Paxton called on Republicans to rally to his defense in Saturday’s vote during a peaceful protest at the Capitol. It echoed Trump’s call to protest his election defeat on January 6, 2021, when a crowd violently stormed the US Capitol in Washington. Paxton spoke at the rally in Washington that day before the uprising.

Trump joined the fray in Texas on Saturday, posting a warning to House members on social media that “I will fight you” if they vote for impeachment. A few hundred Paxton supporters came to watch from the gallery.

House Republicans didn’t seem to care. Sixty of them, 71% of the House GOP caucus, voted for impeachment.

Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi, an ally of Paxton, said the party should rely on “the principled leadership of the Texas Senate to restore reason and sanity.”

The move to the Senate could give grassroots Paxton supporters and national figures like Trump time to exert more pressure.


The impeachment dates back to 2015, when Paxton was charged with securities fraud for which he has still not been tried. Lawmakers accused Paxton of making false statements to state securities regulators.

But most of the impeachment articles stem from his ties to Paul and a remarkable uprising by top Paxton MPs in 2020.

That fall, eight senior aides reported their boss to the FBI, accusing him of corruption and abusing his office to help Paul. Four of them then filed a complaint for denunciation. The report sparked a federal criminal investigation, which in February was taken up by the Public Integrity Section of the US Department of Justice, based in Washington.

The impeachment charges cover a myriad of charges related to Paxton’s relationship with Paul. The allegations include attempted interference with foreclosure proceedings and the improper issuance of legal opinions for Paul’s benefit, as well as firing, harassment and interference with staff who reported what was happening. The bribery charges stem from the case, as well as the fact that Paul allegedly paid for expensive renovations to Paxton’s home in Austin.

The fracas wreaked havoc on the office of the Texas attorney general, long one of the top legal adversaries of Democratic administrations in the White House.

In the years since Paxton’s staff moved to the FBI, the state attorney general’s office, one of the Democratic administrations’ chief legal adversaries in the White House, broke away from the disarray. Senior lawyers have resigned over practices they say are aimed at guiding legal work, rewarding loyalists and voicing dissent.

In February, Paxton agreed to settle the whistleblower lawsuit brought by the former aides. The $3.3 million payment must be approved by the Legislature, and Phelan said he doesn’t think taxpayers should foot the bill.

Shortly after the settlement was reached, the House investigation began.


Paxton was already likely to be noted in the history books for his unprecedented demand that the United States Supreme Court overturn Biden’s loss to Trump in 2020. He is now one of only three sitting officials to being impeached in Texas.

Governor James “Pa” Ferguson was removed from office in 1917 for misuse of public funds, embezzlement, and embezzlement of a special fund. State Judge OP Carrillo was forced out of office in 1975 for personal use of public funds and facilities and for filing false financial statements.


Bleiberg reported from Dallas.

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