The Texas House of Representatives has voted to impeach attorney general Ken Paxton, a conservative firebrand and ally of former US president Donald Trump who has been accused by his fellow Republicans of abuse of office.
In historic proceedings, the 149-member House voted 121-23 to impeach Mr Paxton after hours of debate during which the chamber heard speeches from supporters and opponents of the impeachment. Two members were present but not voting while three were absent.
Mr Paxton will now be temporarily removed from office pending a trial in the Senate, where his wife, Angela Paxton, is a senator. The Texas Senate is in recess until 1pm local time on Sunday, according to its website.
Mr Paxton has denied the accusations and denounced the proceedings as “illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust” in a statement on Twitter after Saturday’s vote. ”I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just,” he said.
In a message on his social media channel Truth Social ahead of the vote, Mr Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, vowed to “fight” Texas House Republicans if Mr Paxton was to be impeached.
Aiding wealthy donor
The 20 articles of impeachment presented by a Republican-led House committee accused Mr Paxton of improperly aiding a wealthy political donor, conducting a sham investigation against whistleblowers in his office whom he fired, and covering up his wrongdoing in a separate federal securities fraud case against him, among other offenses.
The impeachment proceedings laid bare the rift among Texas Republicans. Some spoke passionately in support of impeaching the state’s top law enforcement official.
“Attorney general Paxton continuously and blatantly violated laws, rules, policies and procedures,” Representative David Spiller said ahead of the vote.
Others vehemently opposed it. John Smithee, a long-serving conservative member of the chamber, said he was not speaking in Mr Paxton’s defense but criticised the process and said there was insufficient evidence.
"There is not word, not one sentence in the testimony before you that would be admissible in any Texas court of law," Smithee said. "It is hearsay within hearsay within hearsay."
Mr Paxton has staked out a position on the far right on divisive cultural issues. He has sued the Biden administration nearly 50 times attempting to halt what has he labeled as “unlawful tyrannical policies” on issues including immigration, gun rights and business regulation.
The five-member Texas House General Investigating Committee voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend that Mr Paxton be impeached and removed from office.
Mr Paxton easily won re-election last year after fending off a Republican primary challenge from George P. Bush, a scion of two former presidents.
The committee has heard testimony from its investigators about several years of alleged abuse of office by Mr Paxton, including that he provided friend and donor Nate Paul, a Texas real estate developer, with FBI files related to the bureau’s investigation into him.
The impeachment articles also allege Mr Paxton engaged in bribery when Mr Paul hired a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair. - Reuters
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023