Texas´ GOP-led House of Representatives impeached state Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday on articles including bribery and abuse of public trust, a sudden, historic rebuke of a fellow Republican who rose to be a star of the conservative legal movement despite years of scandal and alleged crimes.
The vote triggers Paxton´s immediate suspension from office pending the outcome of a trial in the state Senate and empowers Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to appoint someone else as Texas´ top lawyer in the interim.
The vote constitutes an abrupt downfall for one of the GOP´s most prominent legal combatants, who in 2020 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden´s electoral defeat of Donald Trump. It makes Paxton only the third sitting official in Texas´ nearly 200-year history to have been impeached.
Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his office to help a donor and was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, though he has yet to stand trial. Until this week, his fellow Republicans had taken a muted stance on the allegations.
Paxton, 60, has decried what he called ‘political theater’ based on ‘hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims,’ and said it’s an attempt to disenfranchise voters who reelected him in November.
It’s unclear where the attorney general was Saturday, but during the House proceeding he was sharing statements from supporters on Twitter.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s three terms in office in the Lone State State have been dogged with allegations of corruption from both sides of the aisle
Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan scheduled an afternoon start on Saturday for debate on whether to impeach and suspend Paxton
‘No one person should be above the law, least not the top law enforcement officer of the state of Texas,’ Rep. David Spiller, a Republican member of the committee that investigated Paxton, said in opening statements. Rep. Ann Johnson, a Democratic member, told lawmakers that Texas´ ‘top cop is on the take.’
Rep. Charlie Geren, a Republican committee member, said without elaborating that Paxton had called lawmakers and threatened them with political ‘consequences.’ As the articles of impeachment were laid out, some of the lawmakers shook their heads. They were expected to debate impeachment for four hours before voting.
House Leader Dade Phelan, also a Republican, scheduled an afternoon start on Saturday for debate on whether to impeach and suspend Paxton from office over allegations of bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust.
Allegations of corruption have dogged Paxon during his three terms as Texas’ top lawyer. In 2020, Paxton, 60, asked the US Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden’s electoral defeat of Donald Trump. Only two officials in Texas’ nearly 200-year history have been impeached.
Shortly before the debate began, Donald Trump took to his TruthSocial platform to say that he would ‘fight’ those who voted to impeach Paxton.
‘Hopefully Republicans in the Texas House will agree that this is a very unfair process that should not be allowed to happen or proceed — I will fight you if it does,’ Trump wrote.
His son, Donald Trump Jr., called the impeachment proceedings a ‘disgrace’ on Friady.
On Friday night, Paxton took to Newsmax to plead his case. Calling the impeachment ‘illegal.’
‘There’s a statute in Texas, which they are not following: This is an illegal impeachment,’ Paxton said.
On Saturday, ex-President Donald Trump vowed to ‘fight’ any Republicans who voted to remove Paxton from office
Speaker of the House Phelan bows his head as Governor Greg Abbot (R) puts his right hand across the chest, during the national anthem in House Chamber in Austin
‘The statute says that if there were complaints prior to the election, there were issues prior to the election, you can’t bring impeachment on issues that occurred, whether true or false, before the election: 19 of the 20 in this complaint were from issues related to the election.’
The second was related to my settlement authority, and they’re saying that I deserved be impeached because I settled a case which required that the Legislature approved the money. They have to actually fund it,’ the embattled lawmaker added.
Taking a leaf out of Trump’s book, Paxton told Newsmax personality, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, that Republicans in the Texas House are conspiring with their Democratic colleagues to impeach Paxton.
Paxton alleged that both parties were ‘very disturbed’ by his reelection at the expense of George P. Bush, grandson of former President George H.W. Bush.
‘They thought I was going to lose my election to Bush, and they became very disturbed when I won and they concocted this plan — I think months and months ago, maybe right after my reelection — thinking that the voters just were not smart enough to figure this out,’ Paxton ranted.
Texas troopers watch over the impeachment proceedings
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks in Washington, at a rally in support of President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021
The attorney general has also found support from Trump acolyte Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
The Georgia congresswoman wrote on Facebook: ‘Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has led the fight against the corrupt Biden Administration, defended Texas election integrity, protected the lives of the unborn, and tirelessly fights to secure the southern border. This Texas House led impeachment is a witch hunt.’
US Sen. Ted Cruz on Saturday called the impeachment process ‘a travesty,’ touted Paxton’s effectiveness in suing the Biden administration, and said the attorney general’s own legal troubles should be left to the courts.
Abbott, who lauded Paxton while swearing him in for a third term in January, is among those who have remained silent.
The governor spoke at a Memorial Day service in the House chamber about three hours before the scheduled start of the impeachment proceedings.
Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan also attended but the two appeared to exchange few words, and Abbott left without commenting to reporters.
Earlier, Paxton called on his supporters ‘to peacefully come let their voices be heard at the Capitol’ to protest. On Saturday morning, there was no evidence of an organized support in the Texas capital.
Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his office to help a donor and was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, though he has yet to stand trial.
Until this week his fellow Republicans have taken a muted stance on the allegations.
Impeachment requires just a simple majority in the House. That means only a small fraction of its 85 Republicans would need to join 64 Democrats in voting against him.
If impeached, Paxton would be removed from office pending a Senate trial, and it would fall to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to appoint an interim replacement.
Final removal would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, where Paxton’s wife’s, Angela, is a member.
In one sense, Paxton’s political peril arrived with dizzying speed: The House committee’s investigation of him came to light Tuesday, and by Thursday lawmakers issued 20 articles of impeachment.
But to Paxton’s detractors, the rebuke was years overdue.
In 2014, he admitted to violating Texas securities law, and a year later he was indicted on securities fraud charges in his hometown near Dallas, accused of defrauding investors in a tech startup.
He pleaded not guilty to two felony counts carrying a potential sentence of five to 99 years.
He opened a legal defense fund and accepted $100,000 from an executive whose company was under investigation by Paxton’s office for Medicaid fraud.
An additional $50,000 was donated by an Arizona retiree whose son Paxton later hired to a high-ranking job but was fired soon after displaying child pornography in a meeting.
In 2020, Paxton intervened in a Colorado mountain community where a Texas donor and college classmate faced removal from his lakeside home under coronavirus orders.
But what ultimately unleased the impeachment push was Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.
In 2020, eight top aides told the FBI they were concerned Paxton was misusing his office to help Paul over the developer’s unproven claims that an elaborate conspiracy to steal $200 million of his properties was afoot.
The FBI searched Paul’s home in 2019, but he has not been charged and denies wrongdoing. Paxton also told staff members he had an affair with a woman who, it later emerged, worked for Paul.
The impeachment accuses Paxton of attempting to interfere in foreclosure lawsuits and issuing legal opinions to benefit Paul.
Its bribery charges allege that Paul employed the woman with whom Paxton had an affair in exchange for legal help and that he paid for expensive renovations to the attorney general’s home.
A senior lawyer for Paxton’s office, Chris Hilton, said Friday that the attorney general paid for all repairs and renovations.
Other charges, including lying to investigators, date back to Paxton’s still-pending securities fraud indictment.
Four of the aides who reported Paxton to the FBI later sued under Texas’ whistleblower law, and in February he agreed to settle the case for $3.3 million.
The House committee said it was Paxton seeking legislative approval for the payout that sparked their probe.
‘But for Paxton’s own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment,’ the panel said.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk