The Republican-dominated Texas House of Representatives is scheduled to consider articles of impeachment against Attorney General
Paxton, a champion of Republican legal fights over gun rights, abortion and immigration, has faced various allegations of wrongdoing throughout his tenure. A GOP-led ethics committee on Thursday voted unanimously to recommend his removal from office and released 20 articles of impeachment against him, including bribery and abuse of public trust.
If a majority of the 149-member chamber votes in favor of impeachment, Paxton would be forced to leave his post immediately while the state Senate would hold a trial on whether he should be removed from office permanently.
Plans for considering the articles of impeachment at 1 p.m. on Saturday were disclosed in a memo to lawmakers on Friday by the House General Investigating Committee. It proposed allocating four hours of debate on the matter, which would be evenly divided between supporters and opponents of impeachment.
“It is imperative that the House proceed with impeachment so that Paxton is prevented from using the significant powers granted to the attorney general to further obstruct and delay justice, not just by avoiding accountability for his wrongdoings, but by undermining the integrity of our state government,” committee members said.
Texas has impeached only two elected officials in its 187-year history — former Governor James E. Ferguson in 1917 and former Judge O.P. Carrillo in 1975.
At a press conference Friday, Paxton claimed the impeachment attempt was illegal and that the legislative panel had denied him the opportunity to present evidence in his defense. He said lawmakers seeking his removal are “showcasing their absolute contempt for the electoral process.” Paxton won election to his third term last year, securing 53% of the vote over his Democratic opponent.
“I want to invite my fellow citizens and friends to peacefully come let their voices be heard at the Captiol tomorrow,” Paxton said. “Exercise your right to petition your government. Let’s restore the power of this great state to the people, instead of the politicians.”
The committee unveiled 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton late Thursday, one day after a team of investigators publicly disclosed details of a secret probe into Paxton’s conduct in office.
The articles of impeachment also include disregard of official duty and obstruction of justice over a period of years.
The embattled attorney general has been under indictment for securities fraud for eight years but procedural skirmishes have stalled a trial. He’s also been accused of professional misconduct and bribery by former members of his staff.
Through their review, investigators said they uncovered evidence to suggest Paxton improperly used his office to aide a campaign donor who was being investigated by the FBI and directed his staff to withhold information from law enforcement about the man.
All such allegations are addressed in the impeachment materials. Committee members accuse Paxton of abusing “the judicial process to thwart justice” and say he made misused his official powers in order to conceal his own wrongdoing.
“While holding office as attorney general, (Paxton) used, misused or failed to use his official powers in a manner calculated to subvert the lawful operation of the government of the State of Texas and obstruct the fair and impartial administration of justice, thereby bringing the Office of Attorney General into scandal and disrepute to the prejudice of public confidence in the government of this State,” reads the 20th impeachment article, outlining the allegation of abuse of public trust.
(Updates with new comments from Paxton.)
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