Amid numerous legal and ethical scandals involving Ken Paxton, the Republican Attorney General of Texas, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has initiated the impeachment process against him. After years of allegations of wrongdoing plaguing Texas’ top lawyer, the move that could quickly remove him from office presents a rare and unprecedented scenario. Paxton, a close ally of former President Donald Trump and many of the state’s hard-right conservatives, now faces a fierce political fight against the House Republican leadership, which seems to have reached its limit with the ongoing issues surrounding him.
Here is a breakdown of how the impeachment process operates in Texas, and how Paxton’s case stands:
Per Texas constitution and law, the impeachment process for a state official mirrors the federal system, initiating with the state House. Now, in Paxton’s case, the five-member House General Investigating Committee has unanimously passed 20 articles of impeachment onto the full chamber. To approve these articles, a simple majority is needed in the 149-member House, wherein Republicans hold an 85-64 balance of power.
However, the House does have the authority to call witnesses to testify, but given that the investigating committee had already conducted hearings to recommend impeachment, this step may not be necessary. If the articles are supported to impeach Paxton, the proceedings will pass to the state Senate, which would hold a “trial” to decide whether to permanently remove the attorney general from office or acquit him.
A SUDDEN THREAT:
One major differentiation between Texas’ and the federal system is that if the House decides to impeach, Ken Paxton will be immediately suspended, and removal will be maintained until the Senate trial’s conclusion. Governor Greg Abbott, as a member of the Texas GOP, will have the opportunity to nominate an interim replacement for Paxton.
REPUBLICAN ON REPUBLICAN:
In many ways, this impeachment case is different from the process surrounding Trump’s federal impeachments in 2020 and 2021, which were driven by Democrats controlling the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans dominate both houses in Texas, and the GOP’s leaders hold all of the state’s significant influence. Despite this, Paxton has still sought to garner partisan support.
Paxton claimed on Tuesday that the House investigation was a political attack by Speaker Dade Phelan, promptin for Phelan’s resignation and calling him a “liberal.” No other Republican in the state has expressed their support for Paxton since he made these remarks.
THE MARRIAGE WRINKLE:
Despite the attorney general’s numerous accusations of wrongdoing, he is likely to retain some allies in Austin. One apparent ally is his wife, Angela, a two-term state senator who could be in the uncomfortable position of voting on her husband’s political future.
In a new twist, Paxton’s impeachment case involves an extramarital affair that he once acknowledged to members of his staff. The charges are for bribery orchestrated by one of Paxton’s donors, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. Paul allegedly offered Paxton’s illicit lover legal assistance in exchange for her employment.
YEARS IN THE MAKING:
The attorney general’s indictment in 2015 for securities fraud charges for which he remains untrialled instigated the beginning of the impeachment process. Paxton was also charged with making false statements to state securities regulators on other matters.
Since then, Paxton’s connections with Paul and a 2020 rebellion by his senior officials triggered most of the indictment’s articles. Eight senior Paxton employees brought whistleblower claims of bribery and office abuse on behalf of Paul to the FBI in the fall of 2020, and four later initiated the lawsuit that broke the story. The allegations include trying to influence foreclosure litigation, unfairly producing legal opinions to benefit Paul, harassment, and interference with staff trying to report Paxton’s actions.
The impeachment of Ken Paxton could only be the third instance of such action taken against a sitting official in the Texas house. In 1917, Gov. James “Pa” Ferguson was removed from office for misuse of public funds, embezzlement, and fund diversion. In 1975, state Judge O.P. Carrillo resigned following allegations of public fund misuse, equipment use for personal gain, and false financial statement filing.
Reporting by Jake Bleiberg, from Dallas.
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Maxwell Thompson is a seasoned political correspondent who has covered elections, policies, and international relations for over a decade. With a degree in political science and a natural curiosity for global politics, Maxwell brings a unique perspective to his writing. In his downtime, he enjoys reading historical biographies and analyzing political trends.
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