Texas’s impeached attorney general acquitted by fellow Republicans

Photo of author

By usawebstories

After a dramatic impeachment trial that lasted more than a week, Ken Paxton, the ultraconservative Texas attorney general, has been acquitted and will be able to resume his work in elected office.

Paxton, who faced 16 articles of impeachment against him in this trial – involving bribery, dereliction of duty and disregard for official duty – and four more separately, avoided becoming Texas’s highest-ranking elected official to be removed from state office. He quickly issued a statement boasting that, in his case, “the truth prevailed”.

Texas liberals condemned the acquittal as the result of partisan politics.

The only two successful impeachments of Texas state officials were governor James “Pa” Ferguson in 1917 and a district judge in 1975.

During Saturday’s senate voting session, which required 21 votes to convict Paxton on any one article, the majority of senators voted along party lines to acquit. Republicans currently dominate the chamber with a 19-12 majority.

Most of the impeachment articles saw votes of 14 yays and 16 nays. Article 3, which concerned the abuse of the open records process, saw the widest disparity in votes, with two yays and 28 nays.

Paxton himself was not present in the chamber during the votes.

Paxton’s trial saw testimonies from former employees of the attorney general’s office who blew the whistle on their boss’s questionable conduct to the FBI and Nate Paul, a wealthy Republican campaign donor and Austin real estate developer with whom Paxton exchanged favors, such as asking Paul to employ his former girlfriend. Paxton’s former girlfriend, however, did not testify.

In closing arguments on Friday, Andrew Murr, the Republican state representative and house impeachment manager chair, said: “He may claim to be one of us. But unlike the public servants here today, he has no regard for the principles of honor and integrity.”

After pleading not guilty, Paxton was absent for nearly the entire trial – a fact that frustrated his prosecutors. However, Angela Paxton, his wife and a state senator, was present for the trial and was included in the total number of senators. Due to her conflict of interest, she was not allowed to vote.

Angela Paxton, wife of Ken Paxton, arrives in the senate chamber at the Texas capitol on 15 September 2023, in Austin, Texas. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

Paxton’s tenure as attorney general has been plagued with controversies from the beginning. In 2014, before he was elected, he was fined by the Texas state securities board for violating financial laws. And the scandals snowballed from there.

Paxton’s former employers reported him to federal authorities for abusing his power by accepting bribes in the form of donations from Paul. Paxton tried to use state funds to pay the nearly $3m legal settlement to these whistleblowers, but did not get the state legislature approval required. His attempt, however, was noted.

At one point during Saturday’s voting session, Blake Brickman – the former deputy attorney general for policy strategy and one of the whistleblowers who reported Paxton to federal authorities – walked out of the chamber, KXAN’s Monica Madden reported.

Paxton was formally impeached in May and immediately suspended from his duties as attorney general.

In language that seemed to mirror that of Republican ally and former president Trump, Paxton’s defense attorneys described the impeachment as a political witch-hunt. But unlike with Trump, it was largely other Republicans who turned on Paxton.

skip past newsletter promotion

A far-right figure in Texas, Paxton is the architect of some of the most severe voting restrictions imposed on the state and favors statewide bans on reproductive choice and gender-affirming care.

In response to his acquittal, Paxton fired off a statement saying that the “truth prevailed”.

“The truth could not be buried by mudslinging politicians or their powerful benefactors,” Paxton’s statement said, in part. He also said he would grant an interview next week to Tucker Carlson – the fired Fox News host who now broadcasts on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter – so as to “address the nation and Texas”.

Meanwhile, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, said: “The jury has spoken. Attorney General Ken Paxton received a fair trial as required by the Texas constitution.”

The state’s Republican party echoed similar sentiments, saying in a statement that those who impeached Paxton “should be embarrassed for putting Texas through the time and expense of this political sham”.

On the contrary, the Texas Democratic caucus criticized Paxton’s acquittal, saying that the state senate’s “inability to see through the fog of politics does not change the facts”.

“The office of attorney general is not serving the 30 million people of Texas, it is serving one man: Ken Paxton,” the Democratic caucus’s statement said.

The former Democratic presidential candidate and ex-US House representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas also criticized the decision, accusing the state’s Republicans of thinking “corruption and authoritarianism can win out”.

“It’s on us to prove them wrong,” he said.

Source link