(The Center Square) – Six Texas representatives on the House General Investigating Committee unanimously voted Thursday to advance 20 articles of impeachment against Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Paxton argues a report from “four liberal lawyers” that is based on “hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims” led to the decision to recommend impeachment.
The House committee held a three-hour hearing Wednesday at which the chief committee counsel, Erin Epley, and three other attorneys testified. All four have extensive experience working for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office or the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District in Houston.
The committee met again on Thursday and voted unanimously on 20 articles of impeachment.
Wednesday’s hearing was held after Paxton called on House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, to resign and asked the committee to investigate Phelan’s behavior after he appeared to be intoxicated while presiding over official House proceedings. Phelan’s spokesperson argued Paxton’s request was “a last ditch effort to save face.”
The committee called for an investigation in March after the House denied Paxton’s budget request to fund a $3.3 million legal settlement his office reached with former staffers. The findings of the investigation were laid out in Wednesday’s hearing.
Epley said the settlement “was made prior to approval from the Texas Legislature, yet the settlement obligates the taxpayers of Texas, not General Paxton, to pay the $3.3 million for a settlement related to his actions.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2020 by staffers who’d been fired after they alleged Paxton engaged in misconduct, which he denied. The Office of the Attorney General published a 374-page report in 2021 in response to their allegations, clearing Paxton of any wrongdoing.
Chris Hilton, chief of the OAG General Litigation Division, told reporters Thursday the committee’s investigation was an “illegal investigation.”
Overturning elections begins behind closed doors. pic.twitter.com/Mved9ddU3i— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) May 25, 2023
Paxton also said the committee was attempting to overturn an election after he’d just been reelected to a third term. He was first elected in 2014, re-elected in 2018, and re-elected to a third term in 2022.
But Committee Chair Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, issued 20 articles of impeachment at the dais, calling the allegations against Paxton “grave.”
The articles range from claims of disregard of official duty, misapplication of public resources, constitutional bribery, obstruction of justice, false statements on official records, conspiracy and attempted conspiracy, misappropriation of public resources, dereliction of duty, unfitness for public office, and abuse of public trust.
Paxton issued a statement in response, saying, “Texas faces a critical moment for the rule of law and the will of Texas voters. Only months ago, Texans went to the polls and made a choice. They made their choice during a primary where over 1.5 million Texans cast their vote. They made that choice again when over 8 million people voted in the general election.”
The report of “four liberal lawyers,” he said, “based on hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims,” was the basis for an “unsubstantiated report” used by the committee to ask the House to “overturn the results of a free and fair election.”
Paxton said the House committee process “provided no opportunity for rebuttal or due process. They even refused to allow a senior attorney from my office to provide the facts. They rejected every attempt to seek a full accounting of the truth.”
He also said, “corrupted politicians in the Texas House, led by liberal Speaker Dade Phelan, are actively destroying Texas’s position as the most powerful backstop against the Biden agenda in the entire country. The RINOs in the Texas Legislature are now on the same side as” as the president, he argued, “collaborating to tie our hands and render Texas less powerful and effective in the fight for the nation’s future. They want nothing more than to sabotage our legal challenges to Biden’s extremist agenda by taking me out as the state’s Attorney General.”
No Texas legislature has impeached an attorney general in state history. If the House were to bring impeachment proceedings, the Senate would hold a trial.