Upcoming: The impeachment trial of suspended Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday. A live feed from Austin will be available at the top of this article Tuesday morning.
The Texas Senate will begin impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday, a political reckoning of years of alleged corruption that could lead to his final impeachment.
The fate of Paxton, a 60-year-old Republican, rests in the hands of the Republican senators he served with before winning a statewide race to head the attorney general’s office in 2015.
At a time of bitter partisanship, the historic trial is a rare example of a political party attempting to hold one of its own to account for allegations of wrongdoing. The impeachment was also a sudden rebuke for Paxton, who has made a name for himself nationally fighting high-profile litigation, including attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and who won a third term in 2022 despite long-pending state criminal charges and a criminal complaint against the FBI. Investigation.
The Republican-led House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in May to impeach Paxton, largely over allegations by his former deputies that the attorney general used his power to help a wealthy donor who returned the favor with favors, including hiring a woman with whom Paxton had an extramarital affair. The 20 articles of impeachment include abuse of public trust, unfitness and bribery.
Voting 121 to 23, Paxton was immediately suspended and made him only the third acting officer in Texas’ nearly 200-year history to be impeached.
Paxton called the impeachment a “politically motivated fraud” and an attempt to disenfranchise his constituents. The attorney general’s attorneys say he will not testify in the Senate trial. He has said he expects an acquittal.
Paxton faces a jury — the state’s 31 senators — composed of his ideological allies and a “judge,” Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who borrowed $125,000 for his last re-election campaign.
His wife, Senator Angela Paxton, will attend the hearing but cannot attend or vote. Two other senators are implicated in the allegations against Paxton.
A two-thirds majority – or 21 senators – is required for a conviction. That means if all 12 Senate Democrats vote against Paxton, at least nine of the 19 Republicans still have to vote.
The trial will likely produce new evidence. But the outline of the allegations against Paxton have been public since 2020, when eight of his top deputies told the FBI that the attorney general was breaking the law to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.
The deputies — mostly conservatives whom Paxton selected for their posts — told investigators that Paxton acted against their advice and hired an outside attorney to investigate Paul’s allegations of FBI misconduct in its investigation into the developer. They also said Paxton pressured its staff to take other actions that helped Paul.
In return, Paul allegedly hired a former adviser to a Republican senator with whom Paxton was having an affair and funded the renovation of one of the attorney general’s homes, a million-dollar home in Austin.
Paul was charged in June with state criminal charges alleging that he made false statements to banks to secure more than $170 million in loans. He pleaded not guilty and broadly denied wrongdoing in dealing with Paxton.
According to a memo from an employee who contacted the FBI, the two men shared a common sense that they were the target of corrupt law enforcement agencies. Paxton was charged with securities fraud in 2015 but has yet to appear in court. The Senate is not addressing, at least initially, three impeachment articles relating to the alleged securities fraud and a fourth relating to Paxton’s ethics motions.
Federal prosecutors continue to investigate Paul and Paxton’s relationship, so the evidence presented during his impeachment trial poses both legal and political risk to the attorney general.
After going to the FBI, all eight of Paxton’s deputies resigned or were fired. Their departures led to a brain drain of other experienced attorneys and left the Attorney General’s office dysfunctional behind the scenes.
Four of the deputies later sued Paxton under the State Whistleblower Act.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers that spearheaded Paxton’s House impeachment trial said it was he who sought $3.3 million in taxpayer money to settle with the group, prompting them to investigate his deals.