Texas lawmakers recommend impeaching Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton teetered on the brink of impeachment Thursday after years of scandal, criminal charges and corruption allegations that the state’s Republican majority has largely kept quiet.

In a unanimous decision, a Republican-led House Investigative Committee said Months were spent quietly searching for Paxton. Recommended the impeachment of the state’s top lawyer. The state House of Representatives could vote on the recommendation on Friday. If the House impeaches Paxton, he will be forced to resign immediately.

The move marked an unusually sudden downfall for one of the GOP’s most prominent legal warriors, who in 2020 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn President Biden’s victory. Only two officials have been impeached in Texas’ nearly 200-year history.

Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over allegations that he used his office to help donors and was indicted separately in 2015 on securities fraud charges, but only recently. He is yet to be tried.

Unlike Congress, impeachment in Texas requires immediate removal from office pending trial in the Senate. That means Paxton faces ousting by GOP lawmakers — among them George P. Bush — who had urged voters to reject a compromise incumbent but discovered that many people were unaware of Paxton’s litany. dismissed the charges as alleged misdeeds or political attacks. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott may appoint an interim replacement.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court on April 26, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Stephanie Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Two of Paxton’s defense attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Paxton has suggested the investigation that unfolded this week was a politically motivated attack by a “liberal” Republican House speaker, whom he also accused of being drunk on the job.

Chris Hilton, a senior attorney at the attorney general’s office, told reporters before Thursday’s committee vote that what investigators said about Paxton was “false,” “misleading” and “full of big and small errors.” It happened.” He said all the allegations were known to voters when they re-elected Paxton in November.

Impeachment requires a two-thirds vote in the state’s 150-member House, where Republicans hold an 85-64 majority.

In one sense, Paxton’s political threat arrived with speed: House Republicans didn’t reveal they were investigating him until Tuesday, followed the next day by an unusually public airing of the alleged criminal acts he committed. As one of the most powerful figures in Texas.

But Paxton’s opponents, who now include a growing portion of their own party in the Texas Capitol, saw the rebuke as years away.

In 2014, he pleaded guilty to violating Texas securities law by failing to register as an investment adviser while soliciting clients. A year later, Paxton was indicted on felony securities charges by a grand jury in his hometown near Dallas, where he was accused of defrauding investors in a tech startup. He has pleaded not guilty to two felony counts that carry a sentence of five to 99 years in prison.

He opened a legal defense fund and accepted $100,000 from an executive whose company was under investigation by Paxton’s office for Medicaid fraud. An additional $50,000 was donated by an Arizona retiree whose son Paxton later took a senior job but was soon fired after trying to talk up child pornography at a meeting. went.

What poses the most serious threat to Paxton is his relationship with another wealthy donor, Austin real estate developer Nat Paul.

In 2020, several top aides to Paxton said they were concerned that the attorney general was abusing the powers of his office to help Paul in an elaborate conspiracy to steal his $200 million estate. The FBI searched Paul’s home in 2019, but he was not charged and his lawyers denied wrongdoing. Paxton also told staff members that he was having an affair with a woman who, it was later revealed, worked for Paul.

Paxton’s aides accused him of corruption and all were fired or quit after reporting to the FBI. The four filed suit under Texas whistleblower laws, alleging wrongful retaliation against Paxton, and agreed to settle the case for $3.3 million in February. But the Texas House must approve the payment, and Phelan has said he doesn’t think taxpayers should foot the bill.

Shortly after the settlement, a House investigation into Paxton began. The investigation was similar to unusual scrutiny of Paxton at the state Capitol, where many Republicans have long remained silent about the allegations against the attorney general.

That includes Abbott, who was sworn in for a third term in Paxton in January and said the way he approached the job was “the right way to run the attorney general’s office.”

The Texas House has only twice impeached an incumbent: Governor James Ferguson in 1917 and State Judge OP Carrillo in 1975.

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