The Texas House of Representatives Investigative Committee recommended impeachment for long-embattled state Attorney General Ken Paxton. The committee voted unanimously 5-0 to adopt articles of impeachment Thursday for Paxton. A vote on the recommendation could come as early as Friday.
In Texas, a House impeachment would require Paxton to leave his office pending a trial in the Senate immediately.
The vote by the committee comes as the attorney general is under investigation in a corruption case led by the FBI over accusations that the attorney general used his office to help out a donor. He was also indicted in 2015 on fraud and securities charges but has yet to face trial.
Several aides from Paxton’s office became concerned that he was misusing the power of his office to assist donor Nate Paul regarding yet-to-be-proven claims of conspiracy to steal $200 million of his properties. Additionally, the attorney general allegedly told staff members he had an affair with a woman who worked for Paul.
Lawmakers accuse Paxton of misusing public information law in the articles of impeachment, using his office to help a donor, misleading public officials, terminating employees who reported his “unlawful” conduct, bribery, and more.
Previously, Paxton suggested the House investigation is politically motivated.
A lawyer in Paxton’s office, Chris Hilton, told reporters Thursday that the House investigators are “misleading,” “false,” and “full of errors big and small.”
On Thursday, Attorney General Paxton tweeted, “Overturning elections begins behind closed doors.”
He also said, “It’s a sad day for Texas as we witness the corrupt political establishment unite in this illegitimate attempt to overthrow the will of the people and disenfranchise the voters of our state.” He called the committee’s findings “hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims.”
Only two officials in Texas’s almost 200-year history have been impeached — state Judge O.P. Carrillo in 1975 and Governor James Ferguson in 1917.
In the 150-member Texas state House, where the GOP holds 85 seats, a simple majority is required to send articles of impeachment to the state Senate. In the Senate, Paxton could be impeached and removed by a vote of two-thirds of the present senators. In the Senate, Republicans hold 19 of the 31 seats, with Democrats controlling the remainder.
On Wednesday, committee investigators said Paxton abused his official capacity, retaliated against whistleblowers who had accused him of corruption in 2020, and misused official information. The attorney general settled the corruption lawsuit with four former aides in February of this year for $3.3 million — which Paxton sought to pay for with public funds. Investigators also concluded he wrongly fired several former staff members who reported his inappropriate behavior to authorities.
Conservative Republican Representative Steve Toth, who endorsed AG Paxton for reelection, called the committee’s recommendation for impeachment “an illegal act” in a Facebook comment, said, “The problem is they’ll do it.” While he noted that courts may later issue an injunction, impeaching Paxton will lead to “paralysis of our attorney general.”