House Votes To Impeach Paxton

Texas AG Ken Paxton | Image by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Members of the Texas House have voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The final votes were 121 in favor, 23 against, and two who were present but not voting.

The House leadership only allowed four hours in total for discussion on the impeachment, further leading to accusations of rushing the vote and political targeting.

Those who urged their colleagues not to support impeachment included Representatives John Smithee (R-Amarillo), Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), Richard Hayes (R-Denton), Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian), Mike Schofield (R-Katy), Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Nate Schatzline (R-Fort Worth), and Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches).

The opponents of the impeachment highlighted the abbreviated process and the secretive investigation. They pointed to the fact that the process for impeaching Attorney General Paxton was radically different from previous impeachments.

Reps. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), and the members of the House General Investigating Committee all successfully urged the members to vote to impeach.

The matter now goes to the State Senate, where Paxton will have an opportunity to defend himself. If convicted by the Senate, he will be removed from office.

The event represents a significant and sudden shift in the dynamics of the state government. Paxton has been attorney general since 2015 and was a state senator for two years prior. His wife, Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), currently holds a seat in the chamber that will try her husband.

The 20 articles of impeachment submitted by General Investigating Committee Chair Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction) claim that Paxton repeatedly disregarded his official duty, abusing his office to protect and benefit a political donor by terminating whistleblowers in violation of state law. In addition, Paxton allegedly concealed Department of Public Safety records in the furtherance of wrongdoing.

Furthermore, the articles claim that Paxton misapplied public resources during his legal battle with the whistleblowers by entering “into a settlement agreement with the whistleblowers that provides for payment of the settlement from public funds.”

Paxton had requested that the Texas Legislature pay the $3.3 million settlement, but House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) opposed such use of taxpayer funds, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

The impeachment articles also claim that Paxton and a political donor, Nate Paul, engaged in a bribery scheme in which Paul provided financial favors (such as renovating Paxton’s home and providing a job to his alleged mistress) in return for legal favors (beneficial opinions and legal coverage).

In several articles of impeachment, the House also pointed to the longstanding indictment of Paxton by a Collin County grand jury on securities fraud charges from way back in 2015. The House also accused him of dereliction of duty, being unfit for public office, and abusing the public trust.

Before the House General Investigating Committee’s first hearing, Paxton had publicly called for Phelan to resign on the grounds that Phelan was allegedly drunk while presiding over the House. Video footage had gone viral the preceding weekend, showing Phelan slurring his words and appearing unsteady on his feet.

To date, Phelan has not offered an explanation of the incident, refusing to answer whether or not he was drunk or suffering from a medical episode. Since then, an additional six minutes of recordings have been released that show Phelan struggling to speak, stoking claims that he has been regularly intoxicated while on the floor.

A transcript of the House General Investigating Committee’s hearings on Paxton can be reviewed here.

Following the vote, the now-impeached Paxton denounced the process as “illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust.”

“I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just,” he added.

The future of Paxton’s political career now rests in the Texas Senate’s hands. A two-thirds vote will be required for a conviction.

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