Texas Panel Recommends Impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton

A Republican-led committee of the Texas House of Representatives recommended on Thursday that the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, be impeached for several abuses of his office that the committee said could amount to crimes.

The recommendation put the state Capitol and its Republican leadership in uncharted political territory in the closing days of the legislative session, setting the stage for a House impeachment vote, the first in decades and the state’s first. Wale is one of the few. History.

If he is impeached, Mr. Paxton, under whom he has been A separate criminal indictment since 2015will have to temporarily step down pending trial in the state Senate.

“There’s really no precedent for this — we’ve really only had two impeachments under the 1876 Constitution,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. They include Governor in 1917who resigned the day before he was convicted by the Senate, and a district judge who was convicted and removed. In the 1970s.

Before the vote, the committee met in executive session, out of public view.

“Overturned elections start behind closed doors,” Mr Paxton said. A post on Twitter It included a video of a lawyer from his office arguing against the impeachment of journalists in a nearly empty committee room while the committee was debating.

The unusual development is likely to test the Republican Party in Texas in new and unexpected ways, at a time when fissures in the party are increasingly exposed.

The Texas House is led by Speaker Dad Phelan, a Republican representing Beaumont who is seen as a traditional conservative. By contrast, Mr. Paxton has been allied with the most hardline Republican lawmakers in Texas and with former President Donald J. Trump, in a camp that also includes the lieutenant governor and state Senate leader Dan Patrick.

The House committee vote came a day later Three hours of detailed testimony Wednesday from a team of investigators — former prosecutors hired by the committee to look into corruption allegations against Mr. Paxton. Investigators described how Mr. Paxton abused and misused his office to help an Austin real estate developer and donor who also hired a woman with whom Mr. Paxton had an affair, and how Mr. Paxton created an atmosphere of fear within the office. Attorney General K

Investigators said the misdemeanors Mr. Paxton was accused of committing rose to the level of potential crimes, including instances of retaliation against people who spoke out.

The committee did not testify during its meeting Thursday.

Christopher Hilton, a lawyer in Mr. Paxton’s office, told reporters that the committee’s process was “completely lacking” and called the testimony from Wednesday “false” and “misleading.” He added that the issues raised by the committee were fully aired during Mr Paxton’s re-election campaign last year, when he was elected to a third term.

Mr Hilton said the 2022 election, primaries and general in-issues, were run on those allegations. “The voters have spoken. They want Ken Paxton as their attorney general.

And, in what appeared to be a preview of a possible legal challenge to the action, Mr. Hilton said Texas law only allows for impeachment since the last election.

The investigation began in March after Mr. Paxton, who is also charged with securities fraud, appeared to have put one of his legal troubles behind him. They Agreed to a $3.3 million settlement Along with four of his top aides who sued him alleging corruption and retaliation.

Mr. Paxton asked the Texas Legislature for funds to pay the settlement. But Mr. Phelan did not support the use of state money, saying he felt Mr. Paxton had not sufficiently explained why the state should finance the settlement. A spokesman for Mr Phelan said a House inquiry into the allegations had been launched to gather information about the funding request.

For two days this week, as the committee’s investigation neared its conclusion, Mr. Paxton waged a war of words and accusations against Mr. Phelan, whom he accused of presiding over a House meeting last week while drunk. . Mr. Paxton based his claim on a video circulating among hard-right activists who blame Mr. Phelan for the failure of various pieces of conservative legislation in the Texas House.

Much of what was presented to the committee about Mr. Paxton was already public knowledge before the aides were charged at trial. The aides also took their complaints about Mr. Paxton to the FBI, which is still investigating.

Thursday’s vote marked the first formal ruling on the charges, which were enough to start the process of removing Mr. Paxton from office.

David Montgomery Cooperation reporting.

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