Texas Attorney General Paxton’s defenders have started arriving in Austin, where he faces impeachment proceedings Saturday in the House.
Paxton asked supporters to rally peacefully before the opening gavel, calling the proceeding “political theater” based on “hearsay and gossip.”
The House will introduce 20 articles of impeachment at 1 p.m. against the 60-year-old Republican from McKinney after a months-long investigation. A House committee on Tuesday recommended impeachment after Paxton requested $3.3 million to pay whistleblower claims against him.
“But for Paxton’s own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment,” the panel said.
If it passes on a simple majority vote, the case will move to the Senate for trial. A two-thirds vote of senators would be required for conviction and removal from office.
The charges include allegations of bribery, dereliction of duty, disregard of official duty, and obstruction of justice.
The attorney general was indicted in 2015 on securities fraud charges and was under investigation by the FBI in a separate case for allegedly using his office improperly to benefit a campaign donor.
Paxton said an impeachment vote would undermine the will of the voters, who re-elected him to a third term in 2022. He said the “witch hunt” is attempting to sideline him as a vocal opponent of President Joe Biden in Texas.
“Every politician who supports this deceitful impeachment attempt will inflict lasting damage on the credibility of the Texas House, which I have served in,” Paxton said in a statement to reporters. “The House is poised to do exactly what Joe Biden has been hoping to accomplish since his first day in office: sabotage our work, my work as Attorney General of Texas.”
Austin attorney Tony McDonald said in an interview Saturday with The Dallas Express that he agrees with Paxton’s argument. He said precedent does not allow removing Paxton based on allegations that would have occurred before the 2022 election.
“The House is trying to cover up for its obstruction of the Republican conservative agenda this legislative session,” McDonald said. “Every session, they always do just enough to say, this was the greatest, most-conservative session ever. It’s a common refrain. They can’t do that this time. They have killed too many things. They’re too politically vulnerable and want a distraction.
“They’re dredging up stuff from long ago,” McDonald said. “Some of it is almost a decade old. All of this was well-known in the last election. It’s an excuse to attack a conservative political opponent.”
In a tweet, McDonald pointed to a legal argument for opposing the impeachment. A Texas statue that states “an officer cannot be removed for acts committed prior to his election to the term of office he is holding. An election to a second term is as much as an election to office as to a first term,” he wrote.
The House has a Republican majority led by Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont. Paxton has accused him of being liberal. Last week, Paxton said that Phelan was conducting proceedings while drunk on the House floor and called on him to resign, as reported by The Dallas Express.
“The reality is, the House is dominated led by RINOs [Republicans In Name Only]. These guys are not Republicans. They’re frauds. They’re obstructing Republican conservative legislation,” McDonald said. “I think that is what it is all about, along with some personality conflicts. They do not like Ken and some of his supporters.”
State GOP chairman Matt Rinaldi called the process a “sham” in a statement.
“The impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General are but the latest front in the Texas House’s war against Republicans to stop the conservative direction of our state,” Rinaldi said. “This sham impeachment is the result of the Phelan leadership team empowering Democrats, allowing them to hold leadership positions, and letting them control the agenda.”
Former President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., said the investigation into “America First patriot Ken Paxton” is a “disgrace.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also tweeted in Paxton’s defense.
“For the last nine years, Ken has been the strongest conservative AG in the country. Bar none. No attorney general has battled the abuses of the Biden admin more ferociously — and more effectively — than has Paxton,” Cruz wrote.