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Save the date: Texas House to vote on impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday

Attorney General Ken Paxton at he Texas Republican Party's convention in San Antonio in 2018.
Julia Reihs
KUT News

The Texas House of Representatives will vote Saturday on a resolution to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The announcement was made by Rep. Andrew Murr, the chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, in a memo sent to House members Friday.

“We cannot over-emphasize the fact that, but for Paxton's own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment by the House,” Murr wrote.

The decision by the House panel to impeach Paxton comes just days after four House-hired investigators publicly detailed a list of illegal acts allegedly committed by Paxton in an effort to protect a political donor.

The 20 articles of impeachment drafted by the committee include constitutional bribery, obstruction of justice, disregard of official duty and misapplication of public resources.

Paxton has denied all allegations of misconduct.

The Republican called a brief press conference Friday afternoon where he again denied any wrongdoing and claimed the impeachment proceedings against him were illegal. 

“Every politician who supports this deceitful impeachment attempt will inflict lasting damage on the credibility of the Texas House, which I served in,” Paxton said. 

He left without taking questions from reporters.  

One of Paxton’s deputies also made remarks and left immediately, dodging numerous questions shouted by reporters.

According to Murr’s Friday memo, the proceedings could take at least four hours on Saturday, with the committee presenting opening and closing statements, along with time reserved for proponents and opponents of the resolution.

He added it was imperative the House move to impeach.

Murr wrote:

“Because of Paxton’s long-standing pattern of abuse of office and public trust, disregard and dereliction of duty, and obstruction of justice and abuse of judicial process, it is imperative that the House proceed with impeachment so that Paxton is prevented from using the significant powers granted to the attorney general to further obstruct and delay justice, not just by avoiding accountability for his wrongdoings, but by undermining the integrity of our state government.”

Most of the alleged illegal acts relate to Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, who made a $25,000 contribution to Paxton's campaign. Paul was being investigated by the FBI and investigators say Paxton tried to use his office to intervene in the investigation.

Only a simple majority vote is needed to move to impeach in the House. If that chamber votes in favor of the resolution, the attorney general will be suspended from his duties until the Senate runs a trial and votes on whether to convict him.

Paxton on Friday called supporters to show up at the Texas Capitol for the impeachment vote on Saturday. 

“I want to invite my fellow citizens and friends to peacefully come and let their voices be heard at the Capitol tomorrow,” Paxton said. 

It’s certain some Republicans will vote to convict. The five-member House General Investigating Committee is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats. All of them voted to move the resolution to the House floor.

However, some of Paxton’s allies in the House are already defending him.

During a Facebook Live Thursday night, Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, called the move to impeach “illegal.”

Saturday’s vote will be historic — only two other public officials have ever been impeached in Texas.

It’s also an unprecedented moment for another reason: If the House were to move forward with impeachment, Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, would serve as a juror in the Senate.

Adrian Shelley, the Texas director of the progressive nonprofit Public Citizen, called on Sen. Paxton to recuse herself.

“There is no court in the country that would allow a spouse to sit in judgment of the defendant or have contact with the jurors," Shelley said in a statement Friday. "No reasonable person could argue that Sen. Paxton can cast an impartial vote.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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