A bipartisan, Republican-led committee in the Texas House of Representatives voted Thursday to recommend impeaching embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton, setting the stage for lawmakers to potentially oust the state official.
The vote by the Committee on General Investigating came a day after committee investigators testified about the findings of their months-long probe into Paxton’s alleged misconduct.
The committee recommended 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton, including claims of bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust. The articles largely relate to Paxton’s alleged efforts to protect a wealthy donor from an FBI investigation and attempts to block whistleblower complaints by his staff.
It was unclear when the House would take up a potential vote on impeaching Paxton. A spokesperson for House Speaker Dade Phelan — a Republican with whom Paxton has feuded — referred the question on House votes to the committee. Logan Harrison, a spokesman for the investigating panel, said the vote by the House on articles of impeachment is expected soon, though he did not provide a date. The legislative session is scheduled to end Monday.
In the 150-member House, where Republicans hold 85 seats, a simple majority is required to send articles of impeachment to the state Senate, Harrison said. In the Senate, Harrison explained, Paxton could be impeached and removed by a vote of two-thirds of the senators present. Republicans hold 19 of the Senate’s 31 seats; Democrats hold the remainder.
Paxton, in a statement Thursday evening, said the committee investigation report was “based on hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproved claims.”
“It’s a sad day for Texas as we witness the corrupt political establishment unite in this illegitimate attempt to overthrow the will of the people and disenfranchise the voters of our state,” Paxton said.
Investigators for the committee on Wednesday said Paxton abused his official capacity, misused official information and retaliated against whistleblowers who had accused him of corruption in October 2020. Paxton settled a lawsuit brought by four former aides in February for $3.3 million — a sum Paxton had sought to pay using taxpayer funds.
But the Texas legislature balked at using public funds to pay that settlement.
The investigators said Paxton had pressured the open records division in his office to help a donor and friend, Nate Paul, in his legal fight with a nonprofit group in Austin. In exchange for that help, investigators said, Paul helped with a “floor-to-ceiling renovation” at Paxton’s home and employed a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an extramarital affair.
The investigators also concluded Paxton wrongly fired several former staffers who reported his inappropriate behavior to authorities.
Rep. Steve Toth, a conservative Republican who endorsed Paxton for reelection, called the committee recommendation for impeachment “an illegal act” in a comment on Facebook.
“The problem is they’ll do it,” Toth said of Democrats in the state House. While courts may later issue an injunction, he said, impeaching Paxton will lead to “paralysis of our attorney general.”
Paxton has been under felony indictment for securities fraud since 2015, the year he became attorney general. The FBI opened an investigation into Paxton in November 2020 on allegations he used his office to benefit a wealthy donor, the Associated Press reported.
In September 2022, a Texas judge ordered Paxton to sit for a deposition about accusations of securities fraud. Despite the indictment and litany of investigations, Texas voters elected Paxton to a third term as attorney general in 2022.
The same House committee recommended lawmakers expel Rep. Bryan Slaton (R) earlier this month after investigating sexual misconduct allegations made against him by a 19-year-old aide. Slaton resigned his seat a day before the House voted 147-0 to expel him.
Hennessy-Fiske reported from Houston.