Paxton not fit to be Texas AG, prosecutor says; impeachment trial starts after Senate allows charges
Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021. Impeachment articles have alleged that Paxton misused his office to benefit a developer and campaign donor. Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press.
Suspended Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is “not fit to be the attorney general for the state of Texas,” according to Texas State Rep. Andrew Murr, who is serving as an impeachment prosecutor.
In his opening statement Tuesday, Murr said Paxton, a fellow Republican, had “turned the keys of the office of attorney general” over to a developer accused of providing renovations to Paxton’s home and employing a woman with whom Paxton was having an affair.
The impeachment articles alleged that Paxton misused his office to benefit the developer and campaign donor, Nate Paul. The impeachment investigation began after four fired employees in Paxton’s office reached a proposed $3.3 million settlement in their lawsuit alleging that they were fired in retaliation for raising concerns.
The New York Times described Paxton as “a third-term incumbent championed by hard-core conservatives and former President Donald J. Trump.”
A story in the Texas Tribune described impeachment exhibits released in mid-August. They include evidence that Paxton recruited a state senator to request a legal opinion that helped Paul and his businesses avoid foreclosure. And they include emails showing that Paul and his lawyer directed a special prosecutor working for the office of the attorney general to investigate Paul’s business rivals, the article reports.
The impeachment trial began Tuesday after the Texas Senate refused to toss any of the 16 articles of impeachment against Paxton, who first became the Texas attorney general in 2015. Four other impeachment charges related to a securities fraud indictment against Paxton have been postponed.
The vote against dismissal of the 16 charges was 24-6. Paxton got slightly more support in a vote to toss one of the charges, which was defeated despite the votes of 10 state senators in favor.
A two-thirds majority is needed to convict after the trial. If the Texas Senate’s 12 Democrats vote to convict, prosecutors would need nine Republican votes. Paxton’s wife, one of 19 Republican state senators, won’t be voting. But she will be counted as present for the purposes of the two-thirds majority.
Paxton is represented by lawyer Tony Buzbee, who said the impeachment allegations are untrue.
“This whole case is a lot of nothing,” Buzbee said. “Ken Paxton is the best attorney general in the country, period.”