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20 articles of impeachment released against Texas' attorney general

 May 26, 2023

The Texas House investigative committee, led by Republicans, has unanimously recommended the impeachment of the state's Attorney General, Ken Paxton. The charges include bribery, unfitness for office, and abuse of public trust.

In a unanimous decision, the committee that has been quietly probing into Paxton's activities for months recommended his impeachment based on 20 articles.

If the House approves the recommendation, Paxton would have to leave his position immediately, as reported by the Associated Press.

Sudden Downfall for Paxton

This situation presents the potential downfall for Paxton, a leading legal representative of the Republican party, who had called on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory. Impeachment is rare in Texas' nearly 200-year history, with only two officials ever being impeached.

Charges Against Paxton

For years, Paxton has been under FBI investigation over accusations of using his office to assist a donor. In addition, he was indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, a case that has yet to go to trial. The impeachment articles against Paxton primarily pertain to his relationship with a wealthy donor and his alleged attempts to shield this benefactor from FBI scrutiny.

The allegations also focus on Paxton's alleged efforts to obstruct whistleblower complaints made by his staff. Paxton, however, has dismissed the investigation as a politically motivated attack by House Speaker Dade Phelan, who he calls a "liberal" Republican.

Political Reactions and Implications

Paxton has called for Phelan's resignation, accusing him of being intoxicated during a marathon session. Phelan's office dismissed these allegations as an attempt by Paxton to "save face."

Paxton claims the impeachment proceedings represent a corrupt political establishment's attempt to disenfranchise the voters of Texas, and he has labeled the committee's findings as "hearsay and gossip." He further alleges that the "Republicans In Name Only (RINOs)" in the Texas Legislature are siding with President Joe Biden.

However, since the emergence of the prospect of impeachment, none of Texas' other top Republicans have publicly supported Paxton. The impeachment requires a majority vote in the 150-member house chamber, which Republicans currently control with an 85-64 majority.

Awaiting the House Vote

The timing of the house vote remains uncertain. Rep. Andrew Murr, the Republican chair of the investigative committee, stated he did not have a timeline for the vote, and Phelan's office declined to comment.

Paxton, a 5-term house member before becoming a state senator, may still have supporters in the House. His potential impeachment has been described as a critical moment for the rule of law and the will of Texas voters.

Removal from Office and Possible Succession

Paxton would be immediately removed from office pending a Senate trial if the impeachment proceeds. This is unlike congressional impeachment, where the accused remains in office until the conclusion of the Senate trial. In the interim, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott could appoint a replacement.

The Charges in Detail

The charges against Paxton include misuse of his office to assist a wealthy donor, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. Paxton is accused of attempting to interfere in foreclosure lawsuits and issuing legal opinions to benefit Paul.

The charges also allege that Paxton fired, harassed, and interfered with staff who reported these incidents. Bribery charges stem from allegations that Paul employed a woman with whom Paxton had an affair in exchange for legal assistance. Also, Paul allegedly funded extensive renovations to Paxton's Austin home.

Other charges relate to Paxton's 2015 felony securities fraud indictment, including lying to state investigators. These charges continue to hang over Paxton, casting a long shadow over his political career.

The Whistleblower Lawsuit and Settlement

Eight aides who reported Paxton to the FBI were either fired or resigned, leading four to file a lawsuit under Texas' whistleblower law. In February, Paxton agreed to a $3.3 million settlement. However, the Texas House must approve this payout. Speaker Phelan has voiced his reluctance to burden taxpayers with the settlement cost.

An Unprecedented Investigation

The House investigation into Paxton marks a notable shift in state politics, given that many Texas Republicans have previously been reticent about the allegations dogging the Attorney General. This investigation is one of the rare instances of Paxton facing direct scrutiny within the state Capitol.

Historical Perspective and Potential Fallout

Impeachment proceedings of this nature are uncommon in Texas. Only twice in its nearly 200-year history has the Texas House impeached a sitting official. Governor James Ferguson was impeached in 1917, and state Judge O.P. Carrillo faced impeachment in 1975. The imminent proceedings against Paxton signal a potential political shakeup.

Awaiting Developments

As the end of the regular legislative session draws near, the House could extend its session to continue the impeachment proceedings or call itself back into session later, with the Senate possessing the same options. Paxton's political predicament has escalated rapidly: the House committee investigation was disclosed only recently, followed by the public airing of his alleged criminal activities.

For critics of Paxton, including an increasing number within his own party, these proceedings have been years in the making. Whether they mark the beginning of the end for Paxton's political career or merely a significant hurdle remains to be seen.