Texas House to vote Saturday on impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton

The Texas House plans to vote Saturday on whether to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, presaging a potential state Senate trial that could lead to the ouster of one of the fiercest opponents of the Biden administration and an architect of conservative Texas policies adopted by other red states.

A Republican-led House investigating committee this week unanimously recommended impeaching Paxton on 20 articles, including bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust. The committee said it began investigating Paxton in March, after he requested $3.3 million in taxpayer funds to end a lawsuit by former staffers who accused him of retaliation.

A memo released Friday by House Speaker Dade Phelan’s office, and written by the House committee that investigated Paxton, noted that “we cannot over-emphasize the fact that, but for Paxton’s own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment by the House.”

Paxton, who has been under various investigations for years, has dismissed the House probe as a political attack by Phelan, accused him of presiding over the chamber drunk last week and called for Phelan’s resignation this week. Phelan’s office dismissed the accusations as Paxton attempting to “save face.”

At a Friday briefing after the memo was released, Paxton derided the “illegal impeachment scheme” as a politically-motivated and “deceitful” plot by the House “showcasing their absolute contempt for the electoral process” and “demonstrating that blind loyalty to Speaker Phelan is more important than their oath of office.” He insisted that the House committee unfairly barred him from presenting evidence and defending himself.

He urged supporters to “peacefully come and let their voices be heard” at the Capitol on Saturday.

Paxton noted he has sued Biden nearly 50 times and warned that impeachment “imperils critical litigation my office has brought” as recently as this week. But he also seemed to anticipate a Senate trial, saying he looked forward to a quick resolution there “where I truly believe the process will be fair and just.”


The House committee, which included three Republicans and two Democrats, exercised a power which has been rarely used in Texas. Only two officials in Texas’s nearly 200-year history have been impeached: The governor in 1917 and a district judge in 1975, said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Houston’s Rice University.

If Paxton is impeached by the House, he would be suspended from office immediately, as the state Senate weighs his fate. Gov. Greg Abbott, a fellow Republican who has worked closely with Paxton, could appoint a temporary replacement. By law, Abbott does not have the power to pardon Paxton if he’s impeached. Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The messy public battle to impeach Paxton revealed a schism in the state’s normally disciplined GOP, which has full control of the levers of power in the state. Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi called the impeachment effort a “sham” and castigated Phelan for attacking Paxton after his recent reelection and “trying to overturn the election results.”

“The impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General are but the latest front in the Texas House’s war against Republicans to stop the conservative direction of our state,” Rinaldi said in a Friday statement on Twitter, accusing Phelan of “empowering Democrats, allowing them to hold leadership positions and control the agenda.” Paxton retweeted the statement.

Underscoring Paxton’s role as a national bulwark against the Biden administration and for former president Trump, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted in defense of the embattled attorney general on Friday.

“What the RINOs in the Texas State House are trying to do to America First patriot Ken Paxton is a disgrace,” he tweeted. “MAGA stands with @KenPaxtonTX against this RINO/Dem led witch hunt!!!” he wrote.

Former Trump White House aide Stephen Miller also retweeted Rinaldi’s statement on Friday. “We must all stand with @KenPaxtonTX - no AG has battled harder against Biden’s lawless assault on our constitution,” he wrote.

As attorney general since 2015, when he succeeded Abbott, Paxton has been at the forefront of culture war battles with Democrats, from defending state abortion restrictions to fighting Biden’s immigration policies.

Last year, Paxton issued a legal opinion that providing youths with gender-affirming treatments was child abuse and Texas began investigating the parents of transgender children (judges disagreed and blocked the investigations). More recently, Paxton announced investigations into doctors in Austin and Houston providing minors with gender-affirming care. Texas legislators banned such care last week. In a primary last year, he defeated former Texas land commissioner George P. Bush, nephew and grandson of former presidents, 68 to 32 percent.

Rep. Steve Toth (R), who endorsed Paxton’s reelection, decried the House impeachment process as “ridiculous” in an interview with The Post, noting that according to Friday’s memo, he and other members won’t be able to question witnesses or review evidence beyond what the committee saw, which he dismissed as “hearsay.”

“We need an attorney general that’s going to defend us from some of the outrageous things the Biden administration is doing,” Toth said, citing Paxton’s pending legal battles over abortion, immigration, transgender rights, the Keystone XL pipeline and redistricting.

Asked by members of the House’s ultraconservative Freedom Caucus about the pending vote, Phelan said they would not be able to question witnesses, and “will have access to the evidence presented to the committee.” He referred further questions to Rep. Andrew Murr (R), who chaired the investigative committee. Murr did not return calls Friday, and Phelan’s office declined to comment.

Rep. Matt Schaefer (R) posted a statement on Twitter Friday saying he had “grave concerns” with the process.

“I publicly opposed Ken Paxton’s reelection in the Republican primary, and I called out his very serious moral and legal failings,” Schaefer said. “But if it is right to impeach Ken Paxton, it is being done in the wrong way.” He said he planned to vote against impeachment “because I do not have confidence in the procedure.”

The House investigative committee has broad power to investigate state officials for wrongdoing, and three weeks ago the House acted on its recommendation and expelled Rep. Bryan Slaton (R), for inappropriate sexual conduct with a 19-year-old legislative aide he had supplied with alcohol.

The 149-member House includes 64 Democrats and 85 Republicans. It was unclear whether Phelan can muster the necessary support from about a dozen fellow Republicans to reach the majority needed for impeachment. Paxton served in the House for 10 years and in the Senate for two before becoming attorney general.

“Phelan has enough supporters that combined with the Democrats, they have at least the minimum number to pass articles of impeachment,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party. “The Senate’s a different story. We’re not really sure what’s going to happen there.”


Final removal would require a two-thirds vote by the Texas Senate, which includes 19 Republicans and dozen Democrats. Paxton’s wife, Angela, is a Republican senator entitled to vote. If the Senate votes to impeach, Paxton would be permanently removed from office.

According to Texas law, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Paxton ally, would preside over the Senate trial but not vote. The Senate would schedule the trial, possibly pausing or reconvening after the legislative session ends Monday. During the trial, the Senate can request documents, witnesses and testimony, meet privately for deliberations and exercise “any other powers necessary,” according to state law.

Patrick did not respond to requests for comment or speak publicly in support of Paxton this week.

“I can’t say a word about it,” Patrick said of Paxton’s potential impeachment during an interview with a Dallas television station late Thursday. “The members will do their duty.”

Since the prospect of Paxton’s impeachment emerged Wednesday, none of Texas’ other top Republicans have spoken out in support of him.

“No Republican wants to be out on an island supporting impeachment,” Jones said. “But if the wave goes the other way, no one wants to be supporting someone who doesn’t have the confidence of other Republicans.”

Paxton has been a powerful player in the party’s conservative wing, a staunch ally selected to help lead Trump’s state campaign for 2024. Paxton and his wife appeared at the pro-Trump rally in Washington on Jan. 6 that preceded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. He led a failed attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, joining other GOP attorneys general in a lawsuit seeking to invalidate Biden’s swing state victories.

Paxton was simultaneously under FBI investigation over accusations that he used his office to help a donor. He was separately indicted on federal securities fraud charges in 2015, but has yet to stand trial. The scandals and criminal investigations increasingly made him “an embarrassment” to Abbott, Jones said. But voters have continued to support Paxton at the ballot box and in polls.


The Texas constitution does not specify what constitutes impeachable offenses, but it mentions impeachment in connection with criminal offenses. By law, a Texas official can’t be removed from office for an act committed before their election to office, a provision Paxton and his defenders have seized upon, since he was just reelected last year, well after accusations were made against him.

The articles of impeachment issued by the investigative committee stem largely from Paxton’s relationship years ago with one of his wealthy donors. They deal largely with Paxton’s alleged efforts over the years to protect the donor from an FBI investigation and his attempts to thwart whistleblower complaints by his staff.

“This isn’t a partisan issue,” said state Rep. Gene Wu (D). “This level of public corruption should be opposed by everyone.”

Wu said he planned to vote for impeachment, and expected fellow Democrats and a significant number of Republicans would, too - more than a majority of the House, he said. Wu said the governor and lieutenant governor’s silence “should raise red flags” that Paxton’s support had waned.

“This is a matter of public trust. This is a matter of protecting our own democracy,” Wu said. “… There are some things we need to do for the integrity of the state, the integrity of the Republic. I am confident there are enough people here who are going to do the right thing.”