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AUSTIN, Texas — In a historic vote Saturday, the Texas House of Representatives voted to impeach Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton over allegations of illegal activities linked to one of his political donors.
Paxton will be immediately and temporarily suspended from his duties pending a hearing in the state Senate.
Rep. David Spiller, a Republican who serves on the House Public Hearing Committee, told members that he thought Paxton had a “brilliant legal mind.” He still broke the law.
“He put his interest above the laws of the state of Texas,” Spiller said. “He took an interest in his staff who tried to advise him on several occasions that he was going to break the law.”
A Report on Twitter After the vote, Paxton wrote, “The ugly scene in the Texas House today confirmed the outrageous impeachment conspiracy against me. It was never fair or just. It was a politically motivated sham from the start.”
The impeachment resolution now goes to the Texas Senate, which will set up an investigation and decide whether to impeach the attorney general.
A historic vote
Paxton joins A Short list of Texas public officials Dismissed. Last year was 1976.
He has denied any allegations of wrongdoing, calling the activities a “sham” and illegal. He also continues to say that the criminal ballot prevents Texans from protecting themselves from the federal government.
“Their conspiracies are important cases that my office has brought against the Biden administration to end the federal government’s attacks on our constitutional rights and the rule of law,” Paxton told reporters Friday.
Paxton has also said he was never given an opportunity to testify before the House General Intelligence Committee.
But Rep. Ann Johnson, a Democrat who sits on the investigative committee, said Paxton had already told her story in a document posted on her website in response to complaints from whistleblowers.
Not a partisan vote
On the House floor Saturday, Republicans and Democrats spoke for and against Paxton’s impeachment.
Republican state Rep. Charlie Geren, a member of the House General Investigating Committee, said several House lawmakers had received phone calls from Paxton.
“One of the key responsibilities of the Public Inquiry Committee is to look beyond nonpartisan communication to take the necessary steps to protect our state and the institution that is government,” Geren said. “We do that today with this resolution.”
Ahead of Saturday’s vote, Republican members of the Texas House sent emails to their constituents asking for support as they weigh whether to impeach Paxton.
A Republican representative from Palestine, Texas. Cody Harris wrote in an email that a decision before lawmakers “can’t be ignored, especially when it’s made by the chief law enforcement officer in the state.” Harris voted ‘yes’ to the impeachment.
Minutes before the Texas House began impeachment proceedings on Saturday, former President Donald Trump posted on social media that Paxton was his friend and would “fight” Republicans who allow the impeachment to proceed.
“Free Ken Paxton,” Trump posted on his social media site, Truth Social. “Let them wait for the next election!”
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Charges against Paxton
During Saturday’s vote, lawmakers listened intently as members of the House Public Hearing Committee laid out 20 allegations against Paxton.
While some are related to Paxton’s 2015 federal securities fraud indictment, for which he has yet to stand trial, most of the charges relate to Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.
When Paul, who contributed $25,000 to Paxton’s 2018 campaign, was investigated by the FBI in 2020, he asked Paxton to intervene in that investigation.
Paxton followed suit, House-hired investigators said, and deviating from his own agency’s policies, hired an outside attorney to intervene and file a case that benefited Paul.
Investigators also found that Paxton forced his staff to rewrite an opinion on Covid-19 restrictions to benefit Paul.
“The last 72 hours have shown us why Ken Paxton is so desperate to make his case in the court of public opinion. Because he doesn’t have the ability to win in court,” said Johnson, a Democrat and member of the House at-large. Committee of Inquiry.
Despite some Republicans voting for impeachment, Paxton continues to have allies in the Texas House.
Rep. John Smithy, a Republican who voted against impeachment, questioned the evidence the House used to move forward with impeachment of Paxton.
“This House lawfully, in good faith, and under the rule of law, cannot impeach General Paxton today on his prior record,” Smithey said.
Smithy made it clear that he wasn’t defending Paxton, but that he had issues with the process.
“We have to defend not only the final decision we reach today and the way we vote, but we also have to defend the process by which this commitment was made,” Smithey said. “To me, the process is indefensible.”
The timing of the hearing in the Texas Senate is unclear.
Texas State Sen. Angela Paxton, wife of Ken Paxton, must vote on the matter unless he recuses himself.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, president of the Senate, said in an interview with WFAA that his chamber would serve as jurors.
“I think members will do their duty,” Patrick said.