Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was impeached today, May 27, after a 121-23 vote in the Lone Star State House. Impeachment is less a conviction and more an indictment, of course, but the lack of support the AG found even among his own party doesn’t bode well for his future. The Texas Senate will now decide Paxton’s fate in trial that could come as early as Monday, May 29.
The General Investigating Committee of the Texas House, made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, voted unanimously to approve 20 articles of impeachment shortly after hearing testimony from investigators. The charges revolve primarily around Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor who contributed $25,000 to the AG’s most recent campaign. According to the articles of impeachment, Paxton abused his power as attorney general numerous times while in office to benefit Mr. Paul.
Paxton denied the allegations, of course, and called the impeachment attempt both deceitful and politically motivated. “Every politician who supports this deceitful impeachment attempt will inflict lasting damage on the credibility of the Texas House,” Paxton told reporters on Friday.
Investigators claim there’s enough evidence that Paxton committed multiple violations of both the law and his oath of office. Of the 20 articles, there are seven for “disregard of official duty,” two for “misapplication of public resources,” two for “constitutional bribery,” two for “obstruction of justice,” three for “false statements in official records,” one “conspiracy and attempted conspiracy,” one “dereliction of duty,” one “unfitness for office,” and, finally, one for “abuse of public trust.”
Paxton’s chief of litigation, Chris Hilton, told reporters Thursday that the vote would be illegal. “Any proposed impeachment can only be about conduct since the most recent election,” Hilton said. Texas law, however, merely stipulates “while in office” – not “since the last election.” Paxton was first elected to the job in 2014, and has held it ever since, winning re-election twice to keep the position.
“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,” Paxton declared at Friday’s press conference, after the articles of impeachment were announced but before the actual vote itself. “There is no other state in this country with so much influence over the fate of our nation,” he continued, “and this is solely because of the relentless challenges that I bring against Biden’s unconstitutional policy agenda.” Whether innocent or guilty of the alleged offenses, Paxton certainly has often been a thorn in Biden’s side.
The final House vote was 121 in favor of impeachment and 23 against, with two marked “present not voting” and three absent. With the current composition at 85 Republicans to 64 Democrats, that a mere 23 opted not to impeach the attorney general does not seem to bode well for the accused. Is Ken Paxton corrupt? That’s the question the Texas Senate – of which his wife is a member – must answer when it votes, an event that could happen as early as Monday.