Ken Paxton Is First Texas Official Impeached in Nearly 50 Years
The Republican-dominated Texas House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impeach embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday, making him the third sitting official in the states’ nearly 200-year history to be impeached.
After hours of debate, the Texas House voted 121 to 23 with two voting “present” to impeach the attorney general. Under state law, Paxton, a Republican, has been temporarily suspended from office while the Senate trial is pending. Governor Greg Abbott can appoint a replacement.
The Texas House General Investigating Committee unanimously agreed on Thursday to bring 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton, which included allegations of bribery, abuse of public trust, and unfitness for office. Following the House’s decision on Saturday evening to impeach Paxton, he now faces a trial in the state Senate, but timing is uncertain as the legislative session ends on Monday.
The General Investigation Committee, a bipartisan panel led by GOP Representative Andrew Murr, launched an investigation into Paxton’s dealings in March. The probe stemmed from a proposed $3.3 million whistleblower lawsuit involving several of Paxton’s former aides who claimed they were fired after accusing the attorney general of accepting bribes and other misconduct. The attorney general has denied any wrongdoing and urged his supporters to protest outside the statehouse.
In a statement following the vote, the attorney general’s office called Paxton’s impeachment “illegal” and said the Office of the Attorney General released a “comprehensive” report that “unequivocally refutes incorrect testimony.”
“The General Investigating Committee’s politically motivated investigation against Attorney General Paxton is predicated on long-disproven claims grounded in hearsay and gossip,” the online statement reads.
Paxton echoed claims that his impeachment was illegal on his Twitter account, where he called for a “quick resolution” in the Senate.
“I am beyond grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust,” Paxton said on Twitter. “I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just.”
Paxton, who was elected to his third term as attorney general in November, has been accused of a slew of offenses that have been mounting for years and range from abusing his office to helping an Austin real estate investor who donated to his campaign. During the impeachment vote on Saturday, members of the House added to the growing list of charges when they accused Paxton of trying to intimidate lawmakers in order to sway their vote.
“The evidence is substantial. It is alarming and unnerving,” Murr said during his closing statement ahead of the impeachment vote.
Newsweek reached out via email and social media to Paxton for comment.
Democratic Representative Eddie Morales Jr. told Newsweek in a phone interview that he amended Paxton’s list of charges after the House vote to include “additional violations” allegedly committed by attorney general during the House proceedings, such as intimidation and abuse of power. Several members of the House accused Paxton of making “threatening phone calls” to try to influence their vote.
“I will be submitting journal statement to amend charge document to include abuse of power, intimidation of house members, and Senate jury tampering in light of @charliegeren statements that AG Paxton called and threatened house and senate members #txlege,” Morales said on Twitter, following up with a tweet showing the submitted document.
Morales, who voted in favor of impeaching Paxton, also said to Newsweek that he asked the General Investigation Committee to investigate state employees in the attorney general’s office who “seemed to act as his personal attorneys during this week advocating for him on state time.”
The Democrat took to Twitter to slam state employees’ defense of Paxton. Morales shared a tweet that included a video clip of Chris Hilton, Chief of General Litigation Division for the Office of Attorney General, saying he was there to testify as a “resource witness” in defense of his boss.
“This is egregious and a misuse of public tax funds when a state employee, receiving a state salary decides to defend and advocate for AG Paxton on a private matter and sounding like his private counsel. Needs to be investigated #txlege” Morales said on Twitter.
Despite Texas’ highest-ranking attorney fending off years of scandal and scrutiny, Paxton has not faced any criminal charges over the alleged improprieties.
Paxton, an ally of former President Donald Trump who supported efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election result, is popular among MAGA Republicans. Many high profile officials defended Paxton on social media, including Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, who said on Twitter: “MAGA stands with @KenPaxtonTX against this RINO/Dem led witch hunt!!!”
The Texas Republican Party assailed the state’s “liberal” GOP leadership, and accused the statehouse’s Republican majority of trying to “stop the conservative direction of our state.”
Trump weighed in on Paxton’s ordeal on his TruthSocial platform, where he referred to the suspended attorney general as “one of the most hard working and effective” in the U.S.
“The RINO Speaker of the House of Texas, Dade Phelan, who is barely a Republican at all and failed the test on voter integrity, wants to impeach one of the most hard working and effective Attorney Generals in the United States, Ken Paxton, who just won re-election with a large number of American Patriots strongly voting for him,” Trump said. “You would think that any issue would have been fully adjudicated by the voters of Texas, especially when that vote was so conclusive….”
In a follow-up post on TruthSocial, the former president, who is seeking a second term in 2024, said he loves Texas and called on state lawmakers to “Free Ken Paxton.” Trump blamed “Radical Left Democrats, RINOS, and Criminals” for Paxton’s predicament and called the proceedings “election interference.”
“….I love Texas, won it twice in landslides, and watched as many other friends, including Ken Paxton, came along with me,” Trump continued on social media. “Hopefully Republicans in the Texas House will agree that this is a very unfair process that should not be allowed to happen or proceed—I will fight you if it does. It is the Radical Left Democrats, RINOS, and Criminals that never stop. ELECTION INTERFERENCE! Free Ken Paxton, let them wait for the next election!”
In several posts that support of Paxton, Trump took aim at Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan, calling him a RINO and “barely a Republican.” In one post, Trump shared a video clip from earlier this month that accused Phelan of being drunk on the House floor.
“So this is the RINO who is responsible for the Impeachment of a just re-Elected Attorney General of Texas who has done an outstanding job? What is our Country coming to,” Trump said in the TruthSocial post.
“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has led the fight against the corrupt Biden Administration, defended Texas election integrity, protected the lives of the unborn, and tirelessly fights to secure the southern border,” Greene said. “This Texas House led impeachment is a witch hunt.”