Texas House panel hits Attorney General Ken Paxton with 20 impeachment counts

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The Republican-led Texas House could vote as soon as Friday on 20 articles of impeachment against Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filed Thursday night by the House General Investigating Committee. The panel's three Republicans and two Democrats voted unanimously to recommend impeaching Paxton, and if a simple majority of their colleagues agree, the attorney general would be immediately suspended from office pending a trial in the Senate.

The 20 articles of impeachment include bribery, obstruction of justice, unfitness for office, abuse of public trust, and retaliation against whistleblowers. "In one sense, Paxton's political peril arrived with dizzying speed: The House committee investigation came to light Tuesday, followed the next day by an extraordinary public airing of alleged criminal acts he committed," The Associated Press reported. "But to Paxton's detractors, who now include a widening share of his own party in the Texas Capitol, the rebuke was years in the making."

Most of the impeachment counts stem from allegations from eight top Paxton staffers that he abused his office to help a top donor, Nate Paul, but they also stretch back as far as a pending securities fraud case that led to his indictment in 2015. Those felony securities charges, for which he has pleaded not guilty and not yet stood trial, carry a potential sentence of five to 99 years in prison. Paxton has also been under FBI investigation since 2020.

It's not clear how the House will vote. "For Democrats, the calculus is simple: They have cast Paxton as corrupt for years and will likely be unanimous in support of impeachment," The Texas Tribune reported. "Republicans must wrestle with whether to indict a top state official in their own party, one who is popular with conservative voters and who survived a primary last year in which opponents tried to tar him with similar allegations of misconduct."

If the House impeaches Paxton, it would take two-thirds of senators to permanently remove him from office. It's not clear if Paxton's wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton (R), would serve as a senator-juror in her husband's trial, the Tribune reported. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who would preside over a Senate trial, told WFAA's "Inside Texas Politics" Thursday night that senators would "all be responsible as any juror would be," and he thinks "the members will do their duty."

Paxton argued Thursday that state law restricts impeachment to actions taken since the last election, so the House charges are illegal. He also said the House investigations committee declined to hear his side of the story. Paxton would be only the third official impeached in the state's 200-year history, after Gov. James "Pa" Ferguson in 1917 and state District Judge O.P. Carrillo in 1975.

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