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Sergio Martínez-Beltrán | The Texas Newsroom, Acacia Squires |
NPRFriday, May 26, 2023
Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton reads a statement at his office in Austin, Texas, Friday, May 26, 2023. An investigating committee says the Texas House of Representatives will vote Saturday on whether to impeach.
AUSTIN, Texas – Saturday afternoon, Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton will face an impeachment vote in the Texas House after a committee, led by Republicans, adopted 20 articles of impeachment against him.
The decision by the House General Investigating Committee came a day after the panel heard from investigators who alleged that the attorney general engaged in illegal acts to protect a political donor, among other accusations.
"Every politician who supports this deceitful impeachment attempt will inflict lasting damage on the credibility of the Texas House," Paxton said Friday in front of reporters while calling the impeachment proceedings politically motivated.
He also called on his supporters to peacefully gather at the Capitol building in Austin Saturday to let their voices be heard.
The House allegations against Paxton primarily revolve around Austin real estate investor Nate Paul who made a $25,000 contribution to Paxton's campaign.
Paul was being investigated by the FBI and House-hired investigators allege that Paxton tried to use his office to intervene. They say Paxton forced his staff to change a ruling on COVID-19 restrictions to benefit Paul and hired an outside attorney to serve as a special prosecutor and fight federal law enforcement on behalf of Paul.
The investigators say they concluded that there is enough evidence to show Paxton committed multiple violations of the law and his oath of office, including abuse of official capacity, misuse of official information and retaliation and official oppression.
The reason for the House investigation stems from Paxton's office asking the Texas Legislature for $3.3 million that would go to four of his former employees who were fired in 2020 after making accusations about Paxton's alleged misdeeds related to Nate Paul.
"We cannot over-emphasize the fact that, but for Paxton's own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment by the House," wrote Republican Rep. Andrew Murr, the chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, in a memo sent to House members Friday.
Democratic State Rep. Terry Canales told The Texas Newsroom there's enough evidence to impeach Paxton.
"I will tell you that after hearing the amount of evidence that they heard that we'd be derelict in our duty to not do it," he said.
In Friday's press conference, Paxton doubled down calling the impeachment vote "illegal," something his chief of litigation, Chris Hilton, told reporters Thursday.
"Any proposed impeachment can only be about conduct since the most recent election. The voters have spoken, they want Ken Paxton," Hilton said.
But Texas law only says that public officials cannot be impeached "for acts committed before election to office," and is not specific about which election.
Also at the press conference, Paxton said that the impeachment vote was an attempt to derail his efforts to stop President Biden's policies in court.
"The House is poised to do exactly what Joe Biden has been hoping to accomplish since his first day in office – sabotage our work, my work, as Attorney General of Texas," he said.
"There is no other state in this country with so much influence over the fate of our nation, and this is solely because of the relentless challenges that I bring against Biden's unconstitutional policy agenda," he continued.
In a statement published on his Twitter account Thursday, Paxton said the Texas House was trying to "overturn" the results of his 2022 reelection.
Paxton was first elected to the office of Texas attorney general in 2014 and has been reelected twice since then. The conservative Republican is popular with Republican voters – he handily beat George P. Bush in the 2022 Republican primary – while remaining controversial inside and outside of the Republican Party.
He's made a name for himself within the state by prosecuting a record number of Texans with voter fraud and for his legal opinion defining gender-affirming care as child abuse. His reputation nationally has primarily come from his feuds with the federal government, both the Obama and Biden administrations over, for example, immigration, federal spending and abortion medication. He also tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Shortly after first taking office in 2015, Paxton was indicted on securities fraud and has yet to face trial. He's also facing a federal investigation over alleged abuse of his office.
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