A Republican-led panel of the Texas House of Representatives recommended on Thursday that state Attorney General Ken Paxton be impeached for various abuses by his office.
The recommendation plunged the state Capitol and its Republican leadership into uncharted political territory in the waning days of the legislative session. History.
If he is impeached, Mr. Trump, a Republican who has been under separate criminal charges since 2015 Paxton must step down from his post while he faces an investigation in the state Senate.
“There’s really no precedent — we’ve really only had two impeachments under the 1876 Constitution,” said Mark P. Jones said. They include Governor in 1917He resigned the day before the Senate convicted him, and a district judge was convicted and fired In the 1970s.
Before the vote, the committee met in an executive session out of public view.
“Overturning elections starts behind closed doors,” said Mr. Paxton said A post on Twitter It also included a video of a lawyer from his office arguing against the impeachment to reporters in a nearly empty committee room as committee deliberations were underway.
After the vote, the committee filed 20 Articles of Indictment Mr. He charged Paxton with bribery, neglect of official duty, obstruction of justice in a separate securities fraud case pending against him, making false statements on official documents and reports and abuse of public trust.
Mr. to benefit a particular donor. Many of the allegations related to the various ways Paxton used his office, the committee said, and later fired people in the office who spoke out against his actions.
As the articles were passed around the House chamber late Thursday, the committee’s chairman, Republican Andrew Moore, said they described “serious crimes” and wanted to bring them up for a vote in the House.
The unusual developments could test the Republican Party in new and unpredictable ways in Texas, at a time when divisions in the party have become increasingly exposed.
The Texas House is led by Speaker Tate Phelan, a Republican representing Beaumont who is considered a traditional conservative. In contrast, Mr. Paxton has clashed with some of the most hard-line Republican legislators in Texas, including former President Donald J. Trump is joined in a camp that includes the lieutenant governor and president of the state Senate, Dan Patrick.
The House Investigations Committee, which consists of three Republicans and two Democrats, voted unanimously to move forward with impeachment proceedings during a brief plenary session. “The Chairman moves that the Committee accept the articles of impeachment against Warren Kenneth Paxton, Attorney General of the State of Texas,” Mr. Moore said.
It was not immediately clear when the House would take up the articles of impeachment and hold a vote, though many members expected them to happen before the end of Monday’s session. Otherwise, lawmakers can call themselves back into a special session at any time.
Asked by a House member about the timing of the impeachment vote, Mr. Mr. Phelan asked when the matter should be brought to a vote. Murr said he would decide. He did not provide a timetable.
For much of Thursday, House members were already preparing for what began to feel inevitable.
At least one lawmaker can be seen investigating Accusation process in the Capitol Library. “I’m trying to figure out what impeachment is,” said the lawmaker, Rep. John Smithy, a conservative Texas Panhandle Republican. Speaking before the committee’s vote, he said it was too early to pass judgment on the matter and that he believed officials may have been too quick to dismiss him.
“I would like to hear more evidence instead of a statement,” said Mr. Smithy said, “He wants to tell his side of the story.”
A House committee vote came a day later Hours of detailed testimony From the team of investigators on Wednesday – former lawyers Mr. They were hired by the committee to investigate allegations of corruption against Paxton.
Austin real estate developer and donor to help Mr. How Paxton misused and abused his office, Mr. Paxton also hired a woman he was in a relationship with, and Mr. Office of the Attorney General.
Mr. The alleged wrongdoing by Paxton rose to the level of a possible felony, investigators said, including instances of retaliation against people who spoke out.
The panel did not take testimony during Thursday’s hearing.
Mr. Christopher Hilton, an attorney from Paxton’s office, told reporters that the panel’s process was “totally lacking” and that testimony from Wednesday was “false” and “misleading.” Last year Mr. He also said that during Paxton’s re-election campaign, when he was elected to a third term, the issues raised by the group were fully aired.
“The 2022 election, the primaries and general these issues, these allegations were held,” Mr. Hilton said. “The voters have spoken. They want Ken Paxton as their attorney general.
And in what appeared to be a preview of a possible legal challenge to the measures, Mr. Hilton said Texas law allowed impeachment only for conduct from a previous election.
Trey Martinez Fischer, the Democratic leader of the Texas House, said after the vote that the charges were “very rare and very serious.” Evaluate the evidence and see where this process takes us.
Representative Joan Rosenthal of Houston, another Democrat, said Mr. He said the allegations against Paxton were “very egregious” and that he would vote for his impeachment. “I challenge you to find a single Democrat who says, ‘No, I will not vote for impeachment,'” he said.
Mr. under the charge of securities fraud. The trial began in March after Paxton apparently succeeded in putting at least one of his legal troubles behind him. He agreed to a $3.3 million settlement with four of his top aides who sued him for corruption and retaliation.
Mr. Paxton had asked the Texas Legislature for funds to pay the settlement. But House Speaker Mr. Phelan does not support the use of government money, and Mr. Paxton said he thought he didn’t explain well enough. Mr. Phelan’s spokesman said.
For two days this week, Mr. Belan vs. Mr. Paxton made the allegations, and said the speaker presided over a House session last week while drunk. Mr. Paxton based his accusation on a video that Mr. Accusations of Phelan spread among far-right activists.
Mr. Much of what was presented to the committee about Paxton was already publicly known from allegations made in the aides’ lawsuit. Assistants Mr. They took their complaints about Paxton to the FBI, which is still under investigation.
Thursday’s vote marked the first official ruling on those charges, with Mr. They were found to be sufficient to begin the process of removing Paxton from office.
The committee also voted to issue letters to the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Facilities Commission, which manages state property, that all evidence relevant to the committee’s investigation “must not be destroyed or concealed,” said Mr. Murr, the committee chairman.
The impeachment vote is the second time the committee has recommended the removal of an elected official from office. The first involved Republican state representative Brian Slaton; A team investigation found that he had slept with a 19-year-old employee after drinking.
Mr. Slotton resigned shortly after. House Then they voted unanimously Formally oust him and prevent him from holding office in the future.
David Montgomery Contributed report.