Fight still ahead for Texas' Ken Paxton after historic impeachment deepens GOP divisions

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to anti-abortion supporters extracurricular the U.S. Supreme Court, November 1, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

The historical impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton plunged Republicans connected Sunday into a combat implicit whether to banish 1 of their ain successful America's biggest reddish authorities aft years of ungraded and transgression accusations that volition present beryllium astatine the halfway of a proceedings successful the authorities Senate.

Paxton said helium has "full confidence" arsenic helium awaits judgement from the Senate, wherever his blimpish allies see his wife, authorities Sen. Angela Paxton, who has not said whether she volition recuse herself from the proceedings to find whether her hubby volition beryllium permanently removed from office.

For now, Texas' three-term lawyer wide is instantly suspended aft the authorities House of Representatives connected Saturday impeached Paxton connected 20 articles that included bribery and maltreatment of nationalist trust.

The decisive 121-23 ballot amounted to a wide rebuke from the GOP-controlled enclosure aft astir a decennary of Republican lawmakers taking a mostly muted stance connected Paxton's alleged misdeeds, which see felony securities fraud charges from 2015 and an ongoing FBI probe into corruption accusations.

He is conscionable the 3rd sitting authoritative successful Texas' astir 200-year past to person been impeached.

"No 1 idiosyncratic should beryllium supra the law, slightest not the apical instrumentality serviceman of the authorities of Texas," said Republican authorities Rep. David Spiller, who was portion of a House investigative committee that this week revealed it had softly been looking into Paxton for months.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has remained soundless astir Paxton each week , including aft Saturday's impeachment. Abbott, who was the state's lawyer wide anterior to Paxton's taking the occupation successful 2015, has the powerfulness to name a impermanent replacement pending the result successful the Senate trial.

It is not twelvemonth wide erstwhile the Senate proceedings volition instrumentality place. Final removal of Paxton would necessitate a two-thirds ballot successful the Senate, wherever Republican members are mostly aligned with the party's hard right. The Senate is led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has served arsenic authorities president for erstwhile President Donald Trump's campaigns successful Texas.

Before the ballot Saturday, Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz came to Paxton's defense, with the legislator calling the impeachment process "a travesty" and saying the lawyer general's ineligible troubles should beryllium near to the courts.

"Free Ken Paxton," Trump wrote connected his societal media level Truth Social, informing that if House Republicans proceeded with the impeachment, "I volition combat you."

Paxton, 60, decried the result successful the House moments aft scores of his chap partisans voted for impeachment. His bureau pointed to interior reports that recovered nary wrongdoing.

"The disfigured spectacle successful the Texas House contiguous confirmed the outrageous impeachment crippled against maine was ne'er meant to beryllium just oregon just," Paxton said. "It was a politically motivated sham from the beginning."

Lawmakers allied with Paxton tried to discredit the probe by noting that hired investigators, not sheet members, interviewed witnesses. They besides said respective of the investigators had voted successful Democratic primaries, tainting the impeachment, and that Republican legislators had excessively small clip to reappraisal evidence.

"I comprehend it could beryllium governmental weaponization," Rep. Tony Tinderholt, 1 of the House's astir blimpish members, said earlier the vote. Republican Rep. John Smithee compared the proceeding to "a Saturday mob retired for an day lynching."

Rice University governmental subject prof Mark P. Jones said the swift determination to impeach kept Paxton from rallying important enactment and allowed softly frustrated Republicans to travel together.

"If you inquire astir Republicans privately, they consciousness Paxton is an embarrassment. But astir were excessively acrophobic of the basal to reason him," Jones said. By voting arsenic a ample bloc, helium added, the lawmakers gained governmental cover.

To Paxton's longstanding detractors, however, the rebuke was years overdue.

In 2014, helium admitted to violating Texas securities law, and a twelvemonth aboriginal was indicted connected securities fraud charges successful his hometown adjacent Dallas, accused of defrauding investors successful a tech startup. He pleaded not blameworthy to 2 felony counts carrying a imaginable condemnation of 5 to 99 years.

He opened a ineligible defence money and accepted $100,000 from an enforcement whose institution was nether probe by Paxton's bureau for Medicaid fraud. An further $50,000 was donated by an Arizona retiree whose lad Paxton aboriginal hired to a high-ranking occupation but soon was fired aft displaying kid pornography successful a meeting. In 2020, Paxton intervened successful a Colorado upland assemblage wherever a Texas donor and assemblage classmate faced removal from his lakeside location nether coronavirus orders.

But what yet unleased the impeachment propulsion was Paxton's narration with Austin existent property developer Nate Paul.

In 2020, 8 apical aides told the FBI they were acrophobic Paxton was misusing his bureau to assistance Paul implicit the developer's unproven claims astir an elaborate conspiracy to bargain $200 cardinal of his properties. The FBI searched Paul's location successful 2019, but helium has not been charged and denies wrongdoing. Paxton besides told unit members helium had an matter with a pistillate who, it aboriginal emerged, worked for Paul.

The impeachment accuses Paxton of attempting to interfere successful foreclosure lawsuits and issuing ineligible opinions to payment Paul. The bribery charges included successful the impeachment allege Paul employed the pistillate with whom Paxton had an matter successful speech for ineligible assistance and that helium paid for costly renovations to the lawyer general's home. A elder lawyer for Paxton's office, Chris Hilton, said Friday that the lawyer wide paid for each repairs and renovations.

Other charges, including lying to investigators, day backmost to Paxton's still-pending securities fraud indictment.

Four aides who reported Paxton to the FBI aboriginal sued nether Texas' whistleblower law, and successful February helium agreed to settee the lawsuit for $3.3 million. The House committee said the probe was sparked by Paxton seeking legislative support for the payout.

"But for Paxton's ain petition for a taxpayer-funded colony implicit his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not beryllium facing impeachment," the sheet said.

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