Years of misconduct in office and intra-party division leads to impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton
The Republican-controlled House voted Sat., May 27, to temporarily remove the Attorney General from office. His trial is set to begin no later than late Aug.
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The only thing Ken Paxton memorialized this past Memorial Day weekend was his future career in politics.
The Texas Attorney General was bipartisanly — and temporarily — suspended from office on Saturday, May 27, following a 121-23 majority vote in which more than half of his Republican colleagues — 60 — in the Texas House voted in favor of his impeachment.
Despite the objections of several prominent Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, Rep. Andrew Murr, a five-term House Republican, who led the investigation into Paxton, laid out the 20 articles of impeachment on the House floor that were ultimately approved by lawmakers.
The several allegations against the former state Senator and Representative that stretch back nearly a decade, included misconduct in office and abuse of power such as bribery, an affair, failure to disclose finances, directing employees to commit violations for gain, and more.
On Memorial Day Monday — the final day of the regular legislative session — the House set the schedule that first began by assembling a Republican-majority Board of Managers to handle Paxton’s trial set to begin no later than this upcoming Aug. 28, that then delivered the articles of impeachment to the Texas Senate.
Murr, the chair of the board of managers, is joined by vice chair and Houston Rep. Ann Johnson. They held the same posts on the Texas House General Investigating Committee, which investigated Paxton and recommended his impeachment.
Murr compared the impeachment solution to the one used in 1975 after the impeachment of state district judge, O.P. Carrillo — the last official to be impeached in Texas.
The resolution, Murr said, “authorizes the employment of a board of managers so they can proceed with the presentation of the trial in the Senate.”
The other managers include Reps. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth); Joe Moody (D-El Paso); Terry Canales (D-Edinburg); Jeff Leach (R-Plano); Oscar Longoria (D-Mission); Morgan Meyer (R-University Park); Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park); Cody Vasut (R-Angleton); David Spiller (R-Jacksboro); and Erin Gámez (D-Brownsville).
Later that evening, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution from the House that laid out next steps as well as appointed a seven-member committee that will prepare recommendations on the rules of procedure for the trial and then present them to the full Senate on June 20.
The Senate panel will be chaired by Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), and vice chaired by Sen. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa (D-McAllen), with Sens. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe); Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton); Joan Huffman (R-Houston); Phil King (R-Weatherford); and Royce West (D-Dallas), rounding out the group.
There are currently 31 Senators in the state senate who could end up serving as jurors in Paxton’s impeachment trial — one of them being his wife, Republican Sen. Angela Paxton, who’d have to potentially hear the logistics regarding one of the articles in which her husband allegedly accepted a bribe from his political donor Nate Paul’s employment of a woman "with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair." Paxton then allegedly used his office to help Paul.
Should Sen. Paxton decide to be one of the jurors and all 12 Democratic senators vote to permanently remove her husband, nine of the 19 Republicans would need to vote for impeachment to reach the two-thirds majority needed to remove the controversial figure. She declined comments from reporters when approached at the Capitol in Austin.
Years of intra-party clashing
Considering the GOP historically has more often than not, protected their own, the decision to move forward with the articles of impeachment against Paxton and the more than half of the state’s lawmakers in his own party that overwhelmingly voted against him, revealed the underlying division and fractures that have existed between him and the Texas GOP for years. Like on the national stage, it’s a battle between the two versions of the GOP — the traditional and the one led by former President Donald Trump.
Republicans have run Texas for decades and have been front and center with controversial measures to restrict abortion and immigration. But their failure of several legislative promises this year showed some of the cracks within the party.
Memorial Day was the final day of the 140-day legislative session that got off to a great start with a $33 billion surplus following a victorious midterm elections last November, and ended on a sour note after GOP lawmakers extensively fought over promises to cut property taxes and provide vouchers to public school students, with nothing happening in the end.
Both were priorities for Governor Greg Abbott who called an immediate special session Monday night, hours after the House had completed the year’s regular legislative session.
Paxton — who’d be the third sitting official to be impeached in Texas’ over 200-year history — released a statement quickly following the news of the impeachment on Saturday.
“I am beyond grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust,” the statement read. “I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just.”