Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
For the first time since the 1970s, the state of Texas has impeached a public servant after the state house voted to send Attorney General Ken Paxton’s case to a senate trial.
Paxton has been accused of providing numerous benefits to one of his donors. He denies any wrongdoing and has questioned the integrity and legality of the impeachment procedure.
“The ugly spectacle in the Texas House today confirmed the outrageous impeachment plot against me was never meant to be fair or just,” Paxton said in a statement. “It was a politically motivated sham from the beginning.”
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. I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just. pic.twitter.com/fEiAroA2DW
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) May 27, 2023
Whether politically motivated or not, the Paxton vote did not fall along party lines; the attorney general had supporters and detractors on both sides. Ultimately, the Republican-led House voted 121-23 in favor of impeachment after hearing the reading of 20 articles.
Among the more serious allegations against Paxton are that he provided Nate Paul, a Texas real estate developer who had donated to Paxton’s campaign, with files related to an FBI investigation into Paul. Paxton is also accused of having worked with Paul to bribe a woman with whom Paxton had an affair.
“He put the interest of himself above the laws of the state of Texas,” Rep. David Spiller, a Republican and member of the House General Investigating Committee, said. “He put the interest of himself over his staff who tried to advise him on multiple occasions that he was about to violate the law.”
Republican Rep. Charlie Geren, another committee member, added, “One of the key responsibilities of the General Investigating Committee is to look beyond partisan affiliation in order to take the necessary steps to protect the institution that is our state and government. We do just that today with this resolution.”
But Republican Rep. John Smithee sided with Paxton and said proper procedure had not been followed.
“This House cannot legitimately, and in good faith, and under the rule of law, impeach General Paxton today on the record that it has before,” Smithee said. “We’ll have to defend not only the final result that we reach today and the way we vote, but we’ll also have to defend the process by which this determination was made. To me, this process is indefensible.”
Paxton has specifically criticized the investigation on the grounds that he was never offered the chance to testify before the investigating committee.
“I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just,” Paxton said.
The Texas Senate, which is also led by Republicans, will now schedule a trial and conduct a hearing, after which the 19 Republican and 12 Democratic members of the chamber will vote on whether to convict Paxton. A two-thirds vote will be needed in order for Paxton to be removed.
As of this writing, there is no timeline for the trial as the Texas Senate is currently in recess. However, the body will reconvene Sunday afternoon.
Impeachments are exceedingly rare in Texas – they’ve happened only twice in the state’s long history – but both men previously impeached were eventually removed from office.
The last time a Texas public official was impeached was 1976, when District Judge O.P. Carrillo was accused of using funds and government employees to his personal benefit.
Gov. James Ferguson, who was accused of embezzling and impeached in 1917, was the only other official to have been impeached in the Lone Star State.