Ken Paxton’s 20 impeachment counts include allegations that he had an affair in exchange for legal help. If the impeachment goes to trial, his state senator wife will be tasked with voting on his fate
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing removal from office after a Texas House committee — with a Republican majority — voted unanimously on Thursday to file 20 articles of impeachment against him.
The state House will next determine whether to approve the articles of impeachment against Paxton, who was indicted on felony securities fraud charges months after taking office as attorney general in 2015. (Paxton has pleaded not guilty and the trial has yet to take place.)
Impeachment proceedings in the House would lead to a Senate trial if successful — and the entire process would be a historic move, as no Texas attorney general has ever been impeached by the state legislature before.
Here's what to know about the case for impeachment, Paxton's controversial background, and his wife's role in the proceedings.
Why would Paxton be impeached?
The vote to file articles of impeachment against Paxton came after an investigation into a long pattern of alleged misconduct by the attorney general. In addition to the securities fraud charges, Paxton has been accused by four of his own former top staffers of using his office to benefit a friend and political donor.
Those accusations have led to a federal investigation into whether Paxton abused his office to help the donor, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.
Committee investigators have alleged that Paxton committed at least three felonies in an effort to assist Paul with his own various legal issues, the Texas Tribune reports. Among the investigators' allegations are that Paxton spent $72,000 in staff labor to benefit the real estate investor and that he provided Paul with an internal FBI document about an investigation into him.
Investigators also presented findings to the committee alleging Paul gave a job to a woman with whom Paxton was having an affair, in exchange for legal assistance. Investigators speaking to the committee said that Paxton's affair ended in 2019 when his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, found out, but "resumed and was underway again by 2020," per PBS.
Paxton has denied wrongdoing but has agreed to a $3.3 million settlement with the four former staffers who served as whistleblowers in the case. He is currently asking the state legislature to approve the use of taxpayer funds to cover the settlement.
How the impeachment process works
On Thursday, a committee comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats voted unanimously to recommend Paxton be impeached and removed from office. Per the Tribune, the committee cited 20 accusations — including bribery and obstruction of justice — against Paxton.
If the House decides to impeach him, Paxton would next face a Senate trial. The Texas Constitution outlines that Paxton would be suspended from his role as state attorney general office pending the outcome of a Senate trial.
In a statement released this week, Paxton said the allegations against him are the result of liberals who "have demonstrated nothing but contempt for the traditional values of conservative Texans," even though both chambers of state legislature are controlled by Republicans.
Paxton's past controversies
In 2021, he again found himself in the headlines, when he and his wife fled to Utah amid unusually cold temperatures and punishing snow and ice that led to millions of Texans losing power.
Last June, Paxton faced criticism after saying that his message to the families of the 19 students killed by a gunman at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school would be that "God always has a plan" and "Life is short no matter what it is."
Some social users pointed out that Paxton's comments about the Uvalde victims bore similarity to remarks he made during the COVID-19 pandemic — when he suggested senior citizens should be "willing to take a chance on [their] survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves."
His wife's role in the impeachment
One of the more interesting twists in the case against Paxton is that his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, could vote on whether or not to impeach him if the case moved to a Senate trial. The Houston Chronicle reports that Angela, a former school guidance counselor, could also seek to recuse herself.
Paxton and his wife made headlines in September, when he fled his home while being served a subpoena (and, according to the process server, drove away from the scene with his wife rather than accept the papers).
The subpoena was to compel Paxton to testify at a hearing in a lawsuit filed by abortion rights groups who want to prevent state prosecutors from prosecuting them for helping Texans seek access to legal abortions in other states.
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