Impeachment trial of Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton set to begin
Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton is bracing for his impeachment trial set to begin Tuesday, historically brought by state senators of his own political party.
The state Senate is taking up 16 articles of impeachment relating to allegations of bribery, dereliction of duty and disregard of official duty against Paxton, who will be just the third person to stand for an impeachment trial in the history of the Texas legislature.
A close ally to former President Donald Trump, Paxton spearheaded several lawsuits in December 2020 challenging the presidential election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin showing a victory for Joe Biden. Paxton also spoke during Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally at the Ellipse, the park south of the White House, before the eventual riot at the U.S. Capitol.
But the impeachment trial centers around Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. Paxton, who has decried the trial as a ‘political motivated sham,’ and an effort to disenfranchise his voters, won a third term in 2022 despite long-pending state criminal charges and an FBI investigation.
The GOP-led state House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton in May, largely based on his former deputies’ claims that the attorney general used his power to help a wealthy donor who reciprocated with favors including hiring a woman with whom Paxton had an extramarital affair.
Paxton faces trial by a jury — the 31 state senators — stacked with his ideological allies and a ‘judge,’ Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who loaned $125,000 to his last reelection campaign. His wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, will attend the trial but cannot participate or vote.
Two other senators play a role in the allegations against Paxton. A two-thirds majority — or 21 senators — is required for conviction, meaning that if all 12 Senate Democrats vote against Paxton, they still need at least nine of the 19 Republicans to join them.
The trial will likely bring forth new evidence, but the outline of the allegations against Paxton has been public since 2020, when eight of his top deputies told the FBI that the attorney general was breaking the law to help Paul. The deputies — largely conservatives whom Paxton handpicked for their jobs — told investigators that Paxton had gone against their advice and hired an outside lawyer to probe Paul’s allegations of wrongdoing by the FBI in its investigation of the developer.
They also said Paxton pressured his staff to take other actions that helped Paul.
Federal prosecutors continue to examine Paul and Paxton’s relationship, so the evidence presented during his impeachment trial poses a legal as well as a political risk to the attorney general. Paul was indicted in June on federal criminal charges based on allegations that he made false statements to banks to secure more than $170 million in loans. He pleaded not guilty and has broadly denied wrongdoing in his dealings with Paxton.
The two men bonded over a shared feeling that they were the targets of corrupt law enforcement, according to a memo by one of the staffers who went to the FBI. Paxton was indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015 but is yet to stand trial. The Senate is not taking up, at least initially, three impeachment articles about the alleged securities fraud and a fourth related to Paxton’s ethics filings.
After going to the FBI, all eight of Paxton’s deputies quit or were fired. Four of the deputies later sued Paxton under the state whistleblower act. The bipartisan group of lawmakers who led Paxton’s impeachment in the House said it was him seeking $3.3 million in taxpayer funds to settle with the group that prompted them to investigate his dealings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.