Ken Paxton is suspended from office after the Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach (Photo by John Anderson)
To hear the proceedings on Saturday, you might have thought the Texas House of Representatives was preparing to vote against the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Quite a few conservative members rose to speak about what they called a rushed process, devoid of actual evidence. But at the end of four hours of consideration, the members voted overwhelmingly 121-23 for impeachment.
It will be the first time a Texas attorney general has ever been impeached, and only the third time any Texas elected official has been (the last impeachment of a Texas official was District Judge O.P. Carillo in 1975). Paxton will soon face a trial in the Senate, with members of the House acting as prosecutors and the body’s 31 senators acting as jurors. The Senate hasn’t set a date for the trial. Paxton, who was immediately suspended following the House vote, will be permanently removed from office if two-thirds of the senators vote for impeachment.
The House proceedings began with the reading of 20 Articles of Impeachment, 18 of which constituted crimes ranging from Class A misdemeanors to second-degree felonies. Several related to accusations that Paxton had accepted bribes from Austin real estate investor Nate Paul. Others concerned long-standing claims of securities fraud. Still others were connected to the federal whistleblower lawsuit brought by four of Paxton’s top lieutenants in 2020, which claimed the attorney general had improperly fired the men after they advised him that his various attempts to help Nate Paul were illegal.
Paxton reached an agreement in February to pay the former employees $3.3 million – but he asked Texas taxpayers to cover the bill. Republican Rep. Andrew Murr, who led the General Investigating Committee that recommended Paxton’s impeachment, said Paxton’s request led directly to his impeachment. “We’re here today because the Attorney General asked the state legislature to fund a multimillion-dollar settlement against him, brought by the whistleblowers. There was no investigation prior to this.”
Murr, Rep. David Spillar, and others spent an hour digging deep into the weeds on the accusations against Paxton during Saturday’s House proceedings. Then came comment from those who opposed impeachment. Rep. John Smithee complained that there had been no witness testimony delivered before the full House and that Paxton’s supporters had had no opportunity to rebut the evidence against him. Smithee said what had been presented – the results of the investigation summarized by the General Investigating Committee – didn’t count as actual evidence.
“You’re all familiar with the term hearsay,” Smithee said. “But what you have in this case is triple hearsay. In most cases, it is hearsay within hearsay within hearsay. No prosecutor would ever try to get a grand jury indictment based solely on hearsay within hearsay within hearsay. No jury would ever convict.”
Opponents of impeachment also argued that the process had been rushed and opaque. The House’s investigation into Paxton had been conducted in secret; the public – and even most House members – only learned about it on May 25, just two days ago. Opponents also complained that only four hours were being allotted to consider and debate the issue. Read more on this developing story in our next print issue.
Read our previous reporting on the scandals surrounding Paxton.
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