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Attorney General Ken Paxton blasts pending impeachment vote, calls for protests

By Patrick Svitek and Zach Despart, The Texas Tribune

Attorney General Ken Paxton blasts pending impeachment vote, calls for protests” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday afternoon denounced the state House’s move to impeach him as an “illegal impeachment scheme.” He also called on supporters to attend the impeachment vote at the Texas Capitol.

Speaking briefly at a press conference a day before the anticipated House vote, Paxton said House members were “showcasing their absolute contempt for the electoral process” and “inflicting lasting damage” on their chamber, which is controlled by the GOP and whose speaker is also a Republican.

“The corrupt politicians in the Texas House are demonstrating that blind loyalty to Speaker Dade Phelan is more important than upholding their oath of office,” Paxton said in a calm tone as he read from prepared remarks. “They are determined to ignore the law. They have denied me the opportunity to present the evidence which contradicts their politically motivated narrative.”

The Republican-led House General Investigating Committee went public with its monthslong investigation into the attorney general earlier this week. It had authorized the probe after Paxton asked the Legislature to use taxpayer money to pay the $3.3 million lawsuit settlement between him and four of his former deputies, who said they were improperly fired after telling federal and state investigators they believed Paxton had accepted bribes and engaged in other misconduct.

During a hearing Wednesday, investigators told the committee’s three Republicans and two Democrats about allegations that Paxton had repeatedly abused his office to help a friend and political donor, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul. They largely relied on claims made by four former senior employees who filed a whistleblower lawsuit in 2022 arguing that Paxton improperly fired them after they reported concerns about Paxton’s actions to federal and state investigators.

The committee investigators said Paxton may have committed at least three felonies in an effort to help Paul with various legal troubles. These included spending $72,000 in staff labor on tasks that benefited the developer, providing Paul with an internal FBI file related to an investigation into Paul, and hiring an outside lawyer for $25,000 to conduct work that primarily benefited Paul.

Committee investigators also discussed criminal charges that have been pending against Paxton since 2015, when a Collin County grand jury indicted him on two counts of felony securities fraud related to private business deals in 2011. According to those charges, Paxton solicited investors into Servergy Inc. without disclosing that the McKinney tech company was paying him to promote its stock.

All of those allegations were known publicly during the 2022 election, when Paxton defeated Democrat Rochelle Garza by nearly 10 percentage points.

Paxton portrayed himself as a champion of conservative values and repeatedly invoked the numerous ways he’s challenged Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration. He said these efforts would fall apart without him in office.

“The House is poised to do exactly what Joe Biden has been hoping to accomplish since his first day in office: sabotage our work, my work, as attorney general of Texas,” Paxton said, speaking in front of 15 staffers at the attorney general’s office in downtown Austin and flanked by two banners reading “Liberty and justice for Texas.”

He left the room without taking questions, ignoring several shouted by reporters.

Chris Hilton, chief of general litigation for the attorney general’s office, came to the lectern next, saying the allegations against Paxton have long been public, and voters decided to reelect him last year anyway.

“There’s no precedent in Texas history for an illegal, one-sided sham investigation like this one,” Hilton said.

The House plans to take up the impeachment debate at 1 p.m. Saturday, according to a memo from the House General Investigating Committee. The committee proposed allocating four hours of debate, evenly divided between supporters and opponents of impeachment, with 40 minutes for opening arguments by committee members and 20 minutes for closing statements.

A simple majority is needed to send the matter to a trial before the Texas Senate. If the House votes to impeach Paxton, the memo said, the House would conduct the trial in the Senate through a group of House members called “managers.”

Paxton called on his supporters to “peacefully” voice their opinions at the Capitol during the proceedings on Saturday. And hardline conservative groups have leapt to his defense. Donald Trump Jr., Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi and Stephen Miller, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, have all expressed support in recent days.

Appearing on the far-right television network Newsmax, Paxton told U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, that “liberal Republicans” were working with Democrats to remove him from office for pushing a conservative agenda. Gaetz asked Paxton if he was confident that he had enough votes in the House to block an impeachment. Paxton said no.

“They thought I was gonna lose my election to [George P.] Bush and they became very disturbed when I won,” Paxton said about his primary challenger from last May. “They concocted this plan, I think months and months ago, maybe right after my reelection, thinking that the voters were not not smart enough to figure this out.”

On Friday, Defend Texas Liberty sent mass text messages urging supporters to contact their representatives and condemn the investigation. “Don’t let them team up with Democrats to steal your vote,” read one text message.

Democrats, meanwhile, have also urged their voters to show up at the Capitol on Saturday. In a mass text message sent by the Travis County Democratic Party, U.S. Rep. Greg Casar, D-Austin, called the proceedings “a serious moment for our state, and a chance to show accountability.”

James Barragán, Alex Nguyen and William Melhado contributed reporting.

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