The Texas House on Saturday voted to impeach embattled state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R).
The vote was 121-23, with two present but not voting, and three who were absent from the chamber. He will be suspended from office pending a trial in the Senate.
The impeachment represents a sudden reversal for Paxton, who has twice cruised to reelection despite being under active federal indictment.
On Thursday, a state House investigative committee recommended his impeachment, finding that he had “used, misused, or failed to use his official powers in a manner calculated to subvert the lawful operation of the government.”
The 20 counts in the resolution contained a grab bag of alleged inappropriate favors done for donors, interference in federal investigations and retaliation against whistleblowers.
But at their centerpiece were sordid accusations of infidelity, bribery and abuse of official power — followed by an alleged campaign of retaliation against Paxton’s deputies who say they attempted to bring it to light.
Some elements of the account put forward by the committee were familiar from ongoing wrongful termination lawsuits by those deputies. They had charged that Paxton illegitimately intervened in litigation by one of his donors, Austin realtor Nate Paul — and that Paul had paid him back by remodeling his house and finding a make-work job for Paxton’s affair partner, a former staffer in his wife’s office.
But other charges revealed to the state House on Wednesday were new. Paxton, the investigative team told the committee, had interfered with an FBI investigation. He had turned out subpoenas to threaten enemies of his donors, they alleged.
And in one dramatic move, they told the committee that Paxton issued a bespoke legal opinion blocking all foreclosure sales in Texas, citing COVID.
This, they noted, was an opinion his office published after just days instead of the usual weeks and had never officially posted, and that came out just in time to halt the foreclosure auction of 13 properties owned by Paul, who was going into bankruptcy.
In March, Paxton agreed to a $3.3 million settlement with the deputies he allegedly fired for tipping off law enforcement about these events — money his office expected to be paid by the state legislature.
Instead, both bodies refused to pay. And underSpeaker Dade Phelan (R), the Texas House began an investigation.
Paxton fought against these charges with his usual pugnacity. He condemned them on Thursday as a politically motivated attack by “liberal Speaker Dade Phelan.”
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