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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says House committee is trying to impeach him again

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the Texas GOP Convention Thursday, May 23, 2024 in San Antonio.
Eli Hartman
/
The Texas Tribune
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the Texas GOP Convention Thursday, May 23, 2024 in San Antonio.

Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday evening said the Texas House ethics committee, which scheduled a meeting for next week, is planning to recommend impeaching him a second time.

“Next week's House General Investigating Committee is yet another desperate attempt by the Republican establishment to impeach me,” Paxton said in a statement. “Their bitter obsession with taking me down knows no bounds, and they will stop at nothing to remove me from office.”

Paxton did not provide evidence for his claim. A Paxton spokesperson did not respond to a request for further comment.

House General Investigating Committee Chair Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The committee often keeps the subjects of its meetings confidential.

Last spring, the committee launched an investigation into Paxton and ultimately recommended his impeachment for corruption. The House obliged, indicting the attorney general on 20 articles, including bribery and abuse of office. The Senate acquitted Paxton of 16 articles and dismissed the remaining four.

[Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton acquitted on all 16 articles of impeachment]

The investigating committee, which is composed of three Republicans and two Democrats, also investigated Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, for sexual misconduct last year. That probe led to Slaton’s unanimous expulsion.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Dade Phelan did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Beaumont Republican appointed members to the House ethics committee and supported Paxton’s impeachment, which nearly cost him his seat earlier this year.

In his statement Wednesday, Paxton said a second impeachment effort was being waged by “lame-duck Republicans” who “lost their primaries thanks to my support.”

Of the 60 House Republicans who voted to impeach Paxton last year, 13 lost their primaries and another four, including Murr, did not seek reelection. Most of the defeats were Republicans who were also targeted by Gov. Greg Abbott over their opposition to private school vouchers.

Still, a move by the House ethics committee to open another impeachment inquiry against Paxton would set off a political explosion and throw the GOP-controlled House into further chaos. Two Republican members, state Reps. Tom Oliverson of Cypress and Shelby Slawson of Stephenville, are challenging Phelan for the speaker’s gavel. Both have criticized how the Beaumont Republican handled Paxton’s impeachment, arguing the proceedings were rushed and ended up exposing members to political backlash during the primaries. Phelan has defended the process and insisted it was the right thing to do.

Paxton’s claim Wednesday night about a second impeachment comes as there appears to be new activity in his ongoing federal criminal investigation that began in September 2020 when several of his top deputies reported him to the FBI, alleging corruption.

A recent court filing revealed that Justice Department prosecutors had subpoenaed two attorney general’s office employees to testify before a federal grand jury earlier this month.

Documents in that sealed investigation that became public when they were entered into the impeachment trial record reveal that federal prosecutors are investigating Paxton for crimes including obstruction of justice, retaliation against witnesses, bribery and honest services wire fraud.

They also reveal similarities between the alleged wrongdoing the impeachment articles identified and the conduct federal prosecutors are investigating: whether Paxton repeatedly abused his office to help his friend, struggling Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, and in return allowed Paul to renovate his Austin home and help him carry out and cover up an extramarital affair with a former Senate aide.

Paxton has denied wrongdoing in the matter.

Renzo Downey contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/07/10/ken-paxton-texas-attorney-general-impeach/.

Copyright 2024 KERA

Zach Despart | The Texas Tribune
Jasper Scherer | The Texas Tribune