Texas attorney general, under House investigation, calls on Speaker Dade Phelan to quit
A House committee revealed Tuesday it was investigating Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — just hours after Paxton called on House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign over a video circulating on social media.
The short clip shows Phelan slurring his words as he presided over the House floor during a recent late-night session of the Legislature. Paxton accused Phelan of being in a “state of debilitating intoxication.”
Cait Wittman, Phelan's communications director, suggested the attorney general made his comments after learning his office was under investigation.
“Paxton’s statement today amounts to little more than a last ditch effort to save face," she said.
The attorney general sent a letter to the House General Investigations Committee on Tuesday asking it to open an investigation into Phelan for “violation of House rules, state law, and for conduct unbecoming his position.”
Paxton also cast blame on Phelan for allowing some key GOP priorities to fail to gain traction this session.
“Texas were dismayed to witness his performance presiding over the Texas House in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication,” he said.
Paxton is currently under indictment for alleged securities fraud. He was indicted in 2015 and also faces a separate federal investigation over alleged abuse of office allegations.
Paxton's comments come days after Republican activists circulated a video featuring Phelan presiding over the House on Friday.
Anyone who watches the #txlege House knows many of the members are regularly intoxicated.— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) May 21, 2023
Watching the Speaker be this wasted is absolutely unacceptable.
These Representatives are making laws that impact 30 million Texans. It must stop.pic.twitter.com/ETYH1sue9j
The clipped video shows Phelan slurring his speech after more than 11 hours of floor debate. Before and after that moment, Phelan’s speech appears fine.
Republican activists claim he was intoxicated. Former GOP state Rep. Jonathan Stickland shared the video on Twitter.
“Watching the Speaker be this wasted is absolutely unacceptable,” he tweeted. “These Representatives are making laws that impact 30 million Texans. It must stop.”
House investigates 'Matter A'
Hours after Paxton asked for Phelan's resignation, the Texas House General Investigations Committee met in a closed session. During that time, the glass on the doors of the committee room was blocked with what seemed like white paper or cloth.
The committee opened the doors at the end of the meeting to announce it was issuing subpoenas to “John Doe 6” and the Office of the Attorney General in “Matter A.”
The panel already had a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, and Rep. Andrew Murr, chairman of the investigations committee, said the panel was going to discuss “Matter A.”
Phelan’s office revealed Paxton is the person being investigated.
Wittman said the “motives for and timing behind Paxton’s statement today couldn’t be more evident.”
“As outlined in the … preservation letter, the Committee is conducting a thorough examination of the events tied to the firing of the whistleblowers in addition to Ken Paxton’s alleged illegal conduct,” she said in an email.
Wittman provided The Texas Newsroom with a copy of the preservation letter. It shows the committee is asking Paxton to preserve all communication between his office and persons related “to the matter of the proposed settlement in Brickman, et. al., v. Office of the Attorney General.”
In October 2020, four of Paxton’s former deputies accused the Republican AG of using his office for political favors for political donors and one of his friends.
The four staffers were fired and they claimed it was in retribution for speaking on the issue. Paxton agreed to apologize and pay the whistleblowers $3.3 million.
That money has yet to be paid out since the Legislature has not appropriated the funds.
On April 14, the committee issued subpoenas to four “John Does” “in its inquiry in MATTER A,” committee minutes show.
It’s presumed that the committee is also investigating Rep. Jolanda Jones, D-Houston, after her top staff abruptly resigned in March, citing mistreatment and cronyism.
Jones has denied the allegations.
This is a developing story.