AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Texas’s Republican-led House of Representatives impeached state attorney general Ken Paxton on Saturday for articles including bribery and abuse of public trust, making a surprise blow to Republican-rising GOP star. made a historic rebuke. A conservative legal movement despite years of scandals and alleged crimes.
The vote will immediately suspend Paxton pending trial in the state Senate and give Republican Governor Greg Abbott the power to temporarily appoint another person as Texas’ top attorney.
A 121-23 vote would mean a sudden downfall for one of the Republican Party’s most prominent litigators, who asked the Supreme Court to overturn President Donald Trump’s election defeat by President Joe Biden in 2020. This makes Paxton the third sitting civil servant to be impeached in Texas’ almost 200-year history.
Shortly after the vote, Paxton’s office said the impeachment was “based on wholly false allegations,” pointing to an internal report that found no wrongdoing. House investigators said the Attorney General’s own investigation into Paxton’s actions contained false allegations and rebuttals.
“No one should be above the law, especially not the top law enforcement officer in Texas,” said Rep. David Spiller, a Republican member of the committee that investigated Paxton, in his opening statement. Democratic Rep. Ann Johnson told lawmakers that Texas’s “top cops are investigating.” Rep. Charlie Jellen, a member of the Republican committee, did not elaborate that Mr. Paxton called lawmakers and threatened political “consequences.” Some lawmakers shook their heads when the articles of impeachment were presented.
Paxton has been under investigation by the FBI for years for allegedly using his office to help donors, and was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, but has yet to face trial. Until this week, his Republican lawmakers were silent on the allegations.
Lawmakers allied with Paxton tried to discredit the investigation by pointing out that it was hired investigators, not panel members, who interviewed witnesses. He also said some of the investigators voted in the Democratic primaries and tainted impeachment, and that there was far too little time to consider the evidence.
Rep. Tony Tinderholt, one of the House’s most conservative lawmakers, said, “We recognize the potential for political weaponization.” Republican Rep. John Smithee likened the case to “a mob at a Saturday afternoon lynching.”
Paxton will be automatically suspended pending a Senate trial, leaving it to Republican Governor Greg Abbott to appoint an interim replacement. A final impeachment would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, where Paxton’s wife, Angela, belongs.
The top Republican elected in Texas has been particularly quiet about Paxton this week. But on Saturday, both President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz defended Mr. Trump, saying the senators called the impeachment process a “farce” and said the attorney general’s legal matters should be left to the courts.
“Free Ken Paxton,” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social, warning that “I will fight you guys” if House Republicans proceed.
Abbott praised Mr. Paxton in January while sworn in for a third term, but has remained silent. The governor spoke at a Memorial Day service on the House floor about three hours before impeachment proceedings began. House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, was also present, but the two appeared to speak little, and Abbott walked out without commenting to reporters.
In some ways, Mr. Paxton’s political crisis has arrived with dizzying speed. A House committee investigation was revealed on Tuesday, and by Thursday, lawmakers had issued Article 20 articles of impeachment.
But for Paxton’s detractors, the reprimand was years too late.
He admitted to violating Texas securities laws in 2014 and was indicted a year later on securities fraud charges for defrauding investors in a tech startup near his hometown of Dallas. He has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts that carry a possible sentence of five to 99 years.
He set up a legal defense fund and received $100,000 from a company executive under investigation by the Paxton office for Medicaid fraud. Another $50,000 was donated by an Arizona retiree whose son, Paxton, later got a high-profile job but was quickly fired for showing child pornography at a rally. In 2020, Paxton intervened in a mountain community in Colorado. There, Texas donors and college classmates faced eviction from their lakeside homes due to coronavirus mandates.
But it was Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate developer Nate Paul that ultimately unleashed the impeachment push.
In 2020, eight aides told the FBI they feared Mr. Paxton was abusing his office to help Mr. Paul. Over the developer’s unsubstantiated allegations that an elaborate conspiracy is underway to steal $200 million of Paul’s fortune. The FBI raided Paul’s home in 2019, but he has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. Paxton also told staff he had an affair with a woman who was later found to have worked for Paul.
In the impeachment proceedings, Paxton is accused of trying to intervene in foreclosure proceedings and issuing legal opinions that benefit Paul. The bribery charges allege that Paul hired a woman who had an affair with Paxton in exchange for legal assistance and paid for expensive renovations to the Attorney General’s home.
Paxton’s firm’s senior attorney, Chris Hilton, said Friday that the attorney general paid for all repairs and renovations.
Other charges, including falsehoods against investigators, date back to Mr. Paxton’s pending securities fraud indictment.
Four of Paxton’s aides who referred him to the FBI then filed a lawsuit under the Texas Whistleblower Act, and in February Paxton agreed to a $3.3 million settlement. A House committee said Paxton had sought legislative approval for the payments that sparked the investigation.
“However, Paxton will not be impeached because of the taxpayer’s demand for settlement of Paxton’s own misconduct,” the commission said.
Breiburg reported from Dallas.
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https://wgntv.com/news/national/ap-gop-controlled-texas-house-votes-to-impeach-republican-attorney-general-ken-paxton/ Republican-controlled Texas House nears impeachment vote against Attorney General Ken Paxton