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Republican senator who voted to acquit Paxton wants Senate to consider reopening impeachment proceedings

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Republican senator who voted to acquit Paxton wants Senate to consider reopening impeachment proceedings” 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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A Republican state senator who voted to acquit Ken Paxton in his impeachment trial last year wants the Senate to consider restarting proceedings now that the attorney general is no longer fighting the whistleblower claims in court that were central to the trial.

The bombshell request came in a letter Thursday from retiring state Sen. Drew Springer to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and his Senate colleagues.

“At this stage, and the point of this letter, I am asking the Senate whether there is a legal mechanism to reopen the impeachment proceedings,” Springer wrote. “Failure to at least consider this possibility runs the risk of AG Paxton making a mockery of the Texas Senate.”

Springer’s letter came days after Paxton announced he would not contest the facts of the whistleblower lawsuit in an attempt to end it without having to testify under oath. The lawsuit was filed in 2020 by a group of former top deputies who said they were improperly fired for telling federal authorities they believed Paxton was abusing his office to help a wealthy friend and donor, Nate Paul.

Paxton’s recent reversal in the whistleblower lawsuit was especially striking because one of the articles of impeachment that he was acquitted on alleged that he violated the Texas Whistleblower Act. Springer wrote that Paxton “completely changed his position in less than four months.”

A spokesperson for Patrick, who served as judge in the trial, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday evening, Paxton said in a statement to the Tribune, “Springer has to leave the senate because he was such a bad senator, wasn’t going to get re-elected, and needed a job. Why should anyone listen to his sour grapes.”

In his latest move to end the lawsuit, Paxton also said he would accept any judgment, potentially opening up taxpayers to more than the $3.3 million sum that was in a tentative settlement deal last year. Springer said Paxton has “essentially written a blank check” at the taxpayers’ expense and that he should have to answer questions under oath if he seeks any funding approval from the Legislature.

Despite his reversal, Paxton has not been able to wriggle out of the lawsuit in Travis County district court. As of now, he is required to sit for a deposition on Feb. 1.

Springer’s letter comes as he is freer from political consequences than most of his GOP colleagues because he is not seeking reelection. But his term is not over until January 2025, giving him a voice in the Senate for nearly another year.

Springer was one of 16 GOP senators who voted to acquit Paxton on all impeachment articles — and keep him in office — at the trial in September. Springer seemed especially conflicted with the decision after facing political threats in his solidly red district.

In the race to succeed Springer, Paxton has endorsed Carrie de Moor, a Frisco emergency room physician who surfaced as a potential challenger while the trial was still underway. Springer is backing one of de Moor’s rivals, Brent Hagenbuch, the former Denton County GOP leader. Patrick has also endorsed Hagenbuch.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/01/25/drew-springer-ken-paxton-impeachment/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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