Defying a last-minute appeal by former President Donald Trump, the Texas House voted overwhelmingly Saturday to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, suspending him from office over allegations of misconduct that included bribery and abuse of office.
The vote to adopt the 20 articles of impeachment was 121-23.
The stunning vote came two days after an investigative committee unveiled the articles — and two days before the close of a biennial legislative session that saw significant right-wing victories, including a ban on transgender health care for minors and new restrictions on public universities’ diversity efforts.
The vote revealed substantial divisions within the Republican Party of Texas — the largest, richest and most powerful state GOP party in the United States. Although the party has won every statewide election for a quarter-century and has controlled both houses of the Legislature since 2003, it has deep underlying fissures, many of them exacerbated by Trump’s rise and influence.
Few attorneys general have been as prominent as Paxton, who made a career of suing the Obama and Biden administrations. One of Trump’s closest allies in Texas, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Paxton unsuccessfully sued to challenge the 2020 presidential election results in four states.
Attention now shifts to the Texas Senate, which will conduct a trial with senators acting as jurors and designated House members presenting their case as impeachment managers.
Permanently removing Paxton from office and barring him from holding future elected office in Texas would require the support of two-thirds of senators.
Impeachment was supported by 60 Republicans, including Speaker Dade Phelan and all five of the representatives from Collin County — where Paxton and his wife have lived for decades. All 23 votes in opposition came from Republicans.
Afterward, Paxton called the vote “illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust,” adding that he looked forward to a quick resolution in the Senate.
The move to impeach came less than a week after the House General Investigating Committee revealed that it was investigating Paxton for what members described as a yearslong pattern of misconduct and questionable actions that include bribery, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice. They presented the case against him Saturday, acknowledging the weight of their actions.
“Today is a very grim and difficult day for this House and for the state of Texas,” Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, a committee member, told House members.
“We have a duty and an obligation to protect the citizens of Texas from elected officials who abuse their office and their powers for personal gain,” Spiller said. “As a body, we should not be complicit in allowing that behavior.”
Paxton supporters criticized the impeachment proceedings as rushed, secretive and based on hearsay accounts of actions taken by Paxton, who they said was not given the opportunity to defend himself to the investigating committee.
“This process is indefensible,” said Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, who complained that the vote was taking place on a holiday weekend before members had time to conduct a thorough review of the accusations. “It concerns me a lot because today it could be General Paxton, tomorrow it could be you and the next day it could be me.”
Saturday’s vote temporarily removes a controversial but influential Republican figure in Texas and nationally. He has led an office that initiated lawsuits that overturned or blocked major Biden and Obama administration policies, particularly on immigration; sought to reverse Trump’s electoral defeat in 2020; aggressively pursued voter fraud claims; and targeted hospitals that provided gender care to minors.
The Legislature had impeached state officials just twice since 1876 — and never an attorney general — but the House committee members who proposed impeachment argued Saturday that Paxton’s misconduct in office was so egregious that it warranted his removal.
“This gentleman is no longer fit for service or for office,” said committee member Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston. “Either this is going to be the beginning of the end of his criminal reign, or God help us with the harms that will come to all Texans if he’s allowed to stay the top cop on the take, if millions of Texans can’t trust us to do the right thing, right here, right now.”
Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, a member of the investigative committee, used his presentation time to criticize Paxton for calling representatives as they worked on the House floor to “personally threaten them with political consequences in the next election” if they supported impeachment.
Speaking against impeachment, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, called the process “wrong.”
“Don’t end our session this way. Don’t tarnish this institution,” Tinderholt said. “Don’t cheapen the act of impeachment. Don’t undermine the will of the voters. Don’t give Democrats another victory handed to them on a silver platter.”
The vote came as hardline conservatives supportive of Paxton’s aggressive strategy of suing the Biden administration were lining up in support of him. Trump — a close political ally to Paxton — blasted the impeachment proceedings as an attempt to unseat “the most hard working and effective” attorney general and thwart the “large number of American Patriots” who voted for Paxton.
Trump vowed to target any Republican who supported impeaching Paxton, adding after the vote: “What is our Country coming to?” In the evening, he called Abbott “missing in action,” asking followers on his Truth Social network, “Where is the Governor of Texas on his Attorney General’s Impeachment?”
As lawmakers listened to the committee members make their case, Paxton took to social media to boost conservatives who had come to his defense, including Trump, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, and conservative radio host Grant Stinchfield, who tweeted, “Kangaroo Court in Texas.”
About 90 minutes into the debate, the official Twitter account of the Texas attorney general’s office began tweeting at members of the committee to challenge some of the claims being made.
“Please tell the truth,” the agency’s account said.
Under the Texas Constitution, Paxton is suspended from office pending the outcome of the Senate trial. The Senate had recessed before the House voted to impeach, and Patrick, who presides over the Senate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a timeline for an impeachment trial.
Because Paxton was impeached while the Legislature was in session, the Texas Constitution requires the Senate to remain in Austin after the regular session ends Monday or set a trial date for the future, with no deadline for a trial spelled out in the law.
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