The Texas House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of impeaching Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican and ally of former President Donald Trump. In total, the motion to impeach the attorney general received 121 “ayes” and 23 “nays” with two members, including one Democrat, voting “present not voting.”
Under Texas law, the vote triggers Paxton’s immediate suspension from office pending the outcome of a trial in the state’s senate. Governor Greg Abbott will now have the opportunity to appoint a replacement in the interim.
Impeachment proceedings against Paxton were filed Thursday after a House investigative committee recommended Thursday that the attorney general be impeached on 20 articles including bribery, unfitness for office, and abuse of public trust. With just 48 hours notice, the Texas Legislature was called to debate the motion on Saturday during the holiday weekend.
“It is a sad day for Texas as we witness the corrupt political establishment unite in this illegitimate attempt to overthrow the will of the people and disenfranchise the voters of our state,” Paxton said in a statement Thursday. “The RINOs in the Texas Legislature are now on the same side as Joe Biden.”
“No one person should be above the law, least not the top law enforcement officer of the state of Texas,” Rep. David Spiller, a Republican member of the committee that investigated Paxton, said in opening statements Saturday, according to KHOU.
Other lawmakers offered support for the state’s top lawyer. “I perceive it could be political weaponization,” said Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a Republican. Rep. John Smithee, another Republican, stated that the evidence presented against Paxton would not hold up in any Texas court of law. Smithee described the allegations as “hearsay, upon hearsay, upon hearsay” and decried lack of due process for Paxton, who was not allowed to defend against the allegations levied against him.
The effort was met with opposition from one Democrat, Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston, who voted “present.”
“The process by which we’re getting this done, seems to be abbreviated to the point that it just encroaches on due process. And I believe everybody ought to respect the due process rights of everybody here, everybody in their district and every Texan, ought to be afforded their due process rights,” Dutton said on the House floor Saturday.
Former President Trump, who endorsed Paxton in the Republican primary against George Prescott Bush, also weighed in on the impeachment saga. “Free Ken Paxton,” Trump wrote in a TruthSocial post.
After being impeached, Paxton said he was “grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust,” in a tweet.
“I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just.”
I am beyond grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust. I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just. pic.twitter.com/fEiAroA2DW
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) May 27, 2023
Paxton slammed the proceedings as a “politically motivated sham,” adding that his office “made every effort to present evidence, testimony and irrefutable facts that would have disproven the countless false statements and outright lies,” in a letter Saturday. The embattled attorney general then took aim at House Speaker Dade Phelan and the investigative panel he appointed.
“Unfortunately, they refused to consider anything that would interfere with their desired result,” Paxton wrote. Just days before the articles of impeachment were presented, Paxton called on Phelan to resign and accused him of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol on the House floor.
After Saturday’s vote, the matter will head to the Texas Senate for a trial. Paxton and his allies have expressed confidence that the effort will be halted in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Republicans hold a 19-12 majority.
On Thursday, Texas Republican Party Chairman Matt Rinaldi echoed Paxton in calling the impeachment a “sham,” adding that he is optimistic about the Senate trial. “It is based on allegations already litigated by voters, led by a liberal speaker trying to undermine his conservative adversaries,” Rinaldi said. “It seems Texas Republicans will have to rely yet again on the principled leadership of the Texas Senate to restore sanity and reason for our state,” he added.