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Texas House committee moves to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
/
KUT

A Texas House panel adopted 20 articles of impeachment against Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday.

The decision by the House General Investigating Committee comes a day after the panel heard from investigators who shared a long list of Paxton’s alleged illegal acts aimed at protecting a political donor.

"After a period of time for your review and reflections, I intend to call up the resolution adopting the articles of impeachment," Chairman Andrew Murr, R-Junction, told House members Thursday evening.

It’s unclear when the full House might vote on the impeachment resolution. The final day of the legislative session is Monday.

If the House votes to impeach, the Republican attorney general would be suspended from his role pending action from the Texas Senate.

The articles of impeachment include disregard of official duty, misapplication of public resources, constitutional bribery and obstruction of justice.

The panel’s decision to move to impeach comes after four House-hired investigators revealed on Wednesday they uncovered evidence of multiple violations of the law and Paxton’s oath of office, including abuse of official capacity, misuse of official information, and retaliation and official oppression.

Many of the allegations were previously known, but Wednesday was the first time they were discussed publicly and in such detail.

Paxton has vehemently denied the allegations.

In a statement published on his Twitter account Thursday, Paxton said the Texas House was trying to “overturn” the results of his 2022 reelection.

He also slammed the investigation, saying the “process provided no opportunity for rebuttal or due process.”

The panel’s decision comes as part of a months-long investigation into Paxton’s settlement of a lawsuit brought by four employees-turned-whistleblowers, who were fired in 2020 after making accusations about the Republican’s misdeeds and reporting them.

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.

Paxton also hired an outside attorney — snubbing agency protocols — to issue a grand jury subpoena to help Paul in his fight against the federal government, investigators said.

State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, told The Texas Newsroom there’s enough evidence to impeach Paxton.

“I will tell you that after hearing the amount of evidence that they heard that we’d be derelict in our duty to not do it,” said Canales, who attended the hearing.

But Paxton’s allies came to his defense.

Before the hearing Thursday, Chris Hilton, Paxton’s chief of general litigation, told reporters the investigation was “illegal.”

“Any discussion of impeachment is completely foreclosed by Texas law,” Hilton said. “Any proposed impeachment can only be about conduct since the most recent election — the voters have spoken, they want Ken Paxton.”

But Texas law says only that public officials cannot be impeached “for acts committed before election to office,” and it’s not specific about which election applies.

Hilton showed up to the committee hearing and tried unsuccessfully to sign up to testify.

According to House rules, no public or agency testimony may be taken during a formal meeting.

In an interview with reporters, Hilton accused the committee of not inviting the attorney general’s office to participate in the investigation.

When asked by reporters where Paxton was, Hilton said, “I’m not going to speak for the attorney general … I’m not going to speak about his personal whereabouts.”

Hilton abruptly left shortly afterward. A man in plainclothes blocked reporters from following Hilton.

During a Facebook Live, Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, also called the move to impeach “illegal” and suggested it was a political move supported by members of the Republican Party.

“We shouldn’t be equivocating right now, we shouldn’t be fighting each other right now, we shouldn’t be doing in the Texas House what Democrats have failed to do in the voting booth,” Toth said.

Copyright 2023 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.