Election

Texas House Votes to Impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton

In an unprecedented move on Saturday afternoon, the Texas House of Representatives voted to approve the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton.
In an unprecedented move on Saturday afternoon, the Texas House of Representatives voted to approve the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton. Screenshot
In an overwhelmingly majority and rather rapid vote, the Texas House approved the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton over allegations detailing his abuses of power and illicit misconduct late Saturday afternoon.

Members of the chamber adopted the 20 articles of impeachment, which outline the attorney general’s wrongdoings, in a 121-23 vote just before 5 p.m. after about four hours of deliberation. with two members present not voting and three absent.

Now the Senate will conduct a case and hear from “impeachment managers” — designated House members — to determine whether or not they support impeachment. If this results in a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate; Paxton will be permanently removed from office.

House Speaker Dade Phelan gaveled into session following a brief statement asking for the packed gallery and members of the chamber to maintain decorum during the proceedings.

Committee members of the House Committee on General Investigation opened, providing summaries of the articles of impeachment which detail claims of Paxton disregarding official duties, partaking in constitutional bribery, obstructing justice, making false statements and other illicit activities.

Several Republican representatives claimed the investigation into the attorney general – which was launched due to a request by Paxton for taxpayer dollars to settle a $3.3 million whistleblower lawsuit – was not conducted in a fair or just process.

Those critiquing the actions of the committee included representatives, John Smithee (R-Amarillo), Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) and Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) – who said the process was rushed and did not uphold the standards of due process.

Smithee called the process “indefensible” as it stood due to the lack of direct witness testimony and evidence brought forward by Paxton or his counsels. He also indicated his belief that the attorney general should have been invited to the House’s proceedings.

He referred to the information collected by the investigation and provided to house members as “triple hearsay.” If members were to vote for the approval of the articles, they would be doing so “in the absolute worst way possible,” he said.

Tinderholt challenged how fast-paced the case was moving forward, citing past impeachment proceedings such those against Judge O.P Carrillo in 1975 – where members heard “both sides of the story” and had three weeks to make a decision, not less than 48 hours, he said.

Representative Ann Johnson (D-Houston) spoke in opposition to these critics, holding up a binder of what she said was the multi-page report from his office detailing their findings related to claims against Paxton.

She said that this report had initially been published online, but later deleted. Though it was later revealed that the report was still online, but it is difficult to find because the link has been reportedly removed by Paxton.

Representative Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) also fired back at Republicans who said that House members would be unable to make an informed decision due to the lack of hearing witnesses.

Canales, who is an attorney himself, said it was highly uncommon – if it ever occurred at all during his time of practicing – that a client would be invited to grand jury proceedings or a witness would be called to provide testimony.

Democrats across the board encouraged House members to vote in favor of adopting the articles of impeachment to bring a stop to Paxton’s alleged criminal misdeeds.

“This gentleman is no longer fit for service or for office,” Johnson said, “Either this is going to be the beginning of the end of his criminal reign, or God help us with the harms that will come to all Texans if he’s allowed to stay the top cop on the take, if millions of Texans can’t trust us to do the right thing, right here, right now.”

Proceedings remained relatively uninterrupted, even after the final votes from chamber members were collected. Slight disruption occurred when gallery members applauded after several House members spoke during the meeting – but that was the extent of public demonstration.

Which may come as a surprise due to the attorney general calling for supporters and fellow citizens to “peacefully” protest the impeachment on Friday, following the announcement that the House would convene to cast their votes the next day.

Though it does seem like Paxton was making last ditch efforts to curb the number of votes approving impeachment, as Representative Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) said he had received reports from House members that the attorney general made calls to several of them threatening political retribution if they voted "yes."

Representative Eddie Morales (D-Eagle Pass) released a statement formally asking for the charges against Paxton to be updated because of this communication to include “intimidation of legislators” and “jury tampering.”

Following Saturday's vote, the attorney general released a statement on twitter calling the impeachment by the House “illegal, unfounded and unethical”:

The Attorney General’s office also responded to the House’s action by releasing a report by Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith law firm which denies the findings of the House Committee’s investigation:

AUSTIN – The Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) released a comprehensive report that unequivocally refutes incorrect testimony that was heard in the House General Investigating Committee. Based on the inaccuracies, falsehoods, and misstatements provided in that testimony, the Texas House chose to proceed with the illegal impeachment of Attorney General Paxton.

The General Investigating Committee’s politically motivated investigation against Attorney General Paxton is predicated on long-disproven claims grounded in hearsay and gossip. In August of 2021, after nearly a year of diligent investigation into these claims from former employees, the Office of the Attorney General released an exhaustive report that ultimately refuted each of the former employees’ allegations. In that report, the OAG stated it would further investigate the allegations and supplement as necessary. Subsequently, the OAG retained an outside law firm to conduct further investigation into the claims of retaliation by the former employees.

This law firm investigation culminated in a report that documents the OAG’s legitimate, non-retaliatory grounds for terminating each of these individuals. This report, along with other clarifying and ultimately exonerating information, could have been readily available to the committee investigators had they merely asked.

Furthermore, an official from the Office of the Attorney General was physically present at a hearing of the House General Investigating Committee on Thursday, May 25. The official offered to testify and sought to inform the House General Investigating Committee about this matter, including by supplying the report, which the official had a physical copy of with him. However, the House General Investigating Committee specifically chose to ignore the official’s offer to testify because they were narrowly focused on advancing an illegal action that would disenfranchise voters who duly elected the Attorney General. They were not interested in the truth. They were interested only in crafting a highly curated, one-sided case to overthrow the will of the voters.

In light of the irresponsible, unfounded, and illegal impeachment of Attorney General Paxton, the Office of the Attorney General is now releasing the report.
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.