The Texas House has received articles of impeachment alleging that Attorney General Ken Paxton has engaged in repeated actions that warrant his removal from office.
Filed by members of the House General Investigating Committee, the articles are the result of a months-long probe into the embattled attorney general.
The 20 articles of impeachment claim that Paxton blatantly disregarded his official duties by abusing his office to protect and benefit a political donor, Nate Paul, an Austin-based real estate developer and business owner.
Paxton’s relationship with Paul has long been criticized and was public knowledge before Paxton’s last election, in which he won by roughly 900,000 votes, a significantly higher margin than when he was elected in 2018.
The articles of impeachment allege Paxton misused his office to repeatedly shield and benefit Paul in return for certain favors, such as employing his alleged mistress and remodeling his house.
In one instance, the articles state:
“Paxton caused employees of his office to prepare an opinion in an attempt to avoid the impending foreclosure sales of properties belonging to Nate Paul … Paxton concealed his actions … [and] directed employees of his office to reverse their legal conclusion for the benefit of Paul.”
The impeachment document also claims that “Paxton improperly obtained access to information held by his office that had not been publicly disclosed for the purpose of providing the information for the benefit of Nate Paul.”
The articles further described an alleged bribery scheme between Paxton and Paul, specifically claiming “Paxton benefited from Nate Paul’s employment of a woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair. Paul received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the office of the attorney general.”
When whistleblowers within the Office of the Attorney General reported some of Paxton’s conduct that they believed to be illegal, “Paxton terminated the employees in retaliation for reporting his illegal acts and improper conduct.”
“Furthermore, Paxton engaged in a public and private campaign to impugn the employees’ professional reputations or prejudice their future employment,” the articles claim.
Paxton and the whistleblowers were in litigation for several years before eventually reaching a settlement agreement. Paxton requested that the State foot the $3.3 million bill, but House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) quickly rejected the idea, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
In several of the articles of impeachment, references were made to the longstanding indictment of Paxton by a Collin County grand jury on securities fraud charges back in 2015.
The House resolution claims that the protracted nature of the case delayed the “discovery of facts and testimony at trial, to Paxton’s advantage, which deprived the electorate of its opportunity to make an informed decision when voting for attorney general.”
The House also accused him of making false statements in official records, dereliction of duty, unfitness for office, and abusing the public’s trust.
“Accordingly, the House of Representatives of the State of Texas … requests that Warren Kenneth Paxton be called upon to answer these articles of impeachment in the Texas Senate, and that in those proceedings the examinations, trials, and judgments be conducted and issued in accordance with law and justice,” the articles conclude.
Paxton has vigorously denied these allegations and criticized the process with which the House General Investigating Committee had conducted the probe.
As reported by The Dallas Express, Paxton shared a video of one of his employees denouncing the committee’s decision, suggesting that it was trying to overturn his most recent election.
Overturning elections begins behind closed doors.
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) May 25, 2023
Chris Hilton, chief of the General Litigation Division at the Office of the Attorney General, said the proceedings were “filled with falsehoods and misrepresentations.”
“They have never reached out to our office to determine whether anything contained in that testimony yesterday was remotely true. The process here has been completely lacking,” Hilton said.
“The people deserve to hear from this office and the context of this investigation. Furthermore, this is an illegal investigation,” Hilton claimed. “Any discussion of impeachment is completely foreclosed by Texas law.”
“Texas Government Code 665.081 says clearly that any proposed impeachment can only be about conduct since the most recent election. The voters have spoken, they want Ken Paxton,” Hilton argued.
While that section of the code does stipulate that “[a]n officer in this state may not be removed from office for an act the officer may have committed before the officer’s election to office,” it does not specify whether it refers only to their most recent election.
Hilton continued, “And this committee, by investigating him, by not allowing us to be heard here today, by never reaching out to us at any time through this investigative process, is trying to thwart the will of voters.”
“They should have let me register to testify as a resource witness. They should have asked our office about any of the facts they heard yesterday, which, by the way, have been reported for years,” he added.
“The 2022 election … was run on these allegations,” he said. “The people have spoken. They want Ken Paxton as their attorney general. This committee should hear from us today.”
Adding further tension to the situation, Paxton publicly called for Phelan to resign just before the House General Investigating Committee’s first hearing, claiming that Phelan was drunk while presiding over House proceedings. A video that had gone viral over the preceding weekend showed Phelan slurring his words and appearing unsteady on his feet, as reported by The Dallas Express.
Anyone who watches the #txlege House knows many of the members are regularly intoxicated.
Watching the Speaker be this wasted is absolutely unacceptable.
These Representatives are making laws that impact 30 million Texans. It must stop.pic.twitter.com/ETYH1sue9j
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) May 21, 2023
To date, Phelan has not explained 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 apparently struggling to speak, prompting claims that he has been regularly intoxicated while on the floor.
BREAKING: I have obtained over 6 minutes of Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan being either drunk or having mini strokes while presiding over the Texas House of Reps. pic.twitter.com/4SOXmT7SHA
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) May 24, 2023
The impeachment push is the latest in the explosive showdown between Phelan and Paxton, with supporters rallying behind their respective sides.
The House is expected to vote on impeachment within the next day or so.