GOP Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, long plagued by scandal, was impeached by the state’s House of Representatives on Saturday in a historic move that removed the state’s top prosecutor from office pending his Senate trial.
The vote, which was taken before a packed gallery of the House, is groundbreaking in Texas politics and marks one of only a few taken to impeach an officeholder in the history of the state of Texas.
“We have a duty and an obligation to protect the citizens of Texas from elected officials that abuse their office and their power for personal gain,” said Republican state representative David Spiller as articles of impeachment were debated Saturday.
“We should not be complicit in allowing that behavior. We should not ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen,” said Spiller.
Paxton’s impeachment was approved in a 121-23 vote, with several Republicans voting against one of their own party’s most significant standard bearers.
To remove Paxton from office, a two-thirds majority of the Senate’s 31 senators, including the attorney general’s wife, Angela Paxton will be needed to remove Paxton from office permanently. However, GOP Governor Greg Abbott can temporarily appoint a replacement to the attorney general’s office while the Senate proceedings are underway.
The ouster of Paxton came shortly after the threat of impeachment became public this week. Opponents of the impeachment have criticized his impeachment as rushed. Two Democrats and three Republicans on the House General Investigating Committee voted unanimously to adopt articles of impeachment on Thursday, a day after when investigators laid out the results of an investigation that had started quietly in the spring when Paxton requested $3.3 million to settle a lawsuit by a whistleblower.
Lawsuit came after several deputies accused AG of abusing his power
The lawsuit was brought by several of the attorney general’s former deputies, who claimed the attorney general retaliated against them after they accused him of abusing his power to assist a donor.
“But for Paxton’s own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment by the House,” said members of the investigative committee in a Friday memo.
There are 20 impeachment articles, including dereliction of duty, unfitness for office, obstruction of justice, bribery, conspiracy, misapplication of public resources, and false statements.
Paxton is a former state lawmaker with close ties to former President Donald Trump. He has denounced the proceedings as illegal and an effort to overturn the will of the voters of Texas. He would imperil litigation his office has brought against the Biden administration.