As the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton approaches, his attorneys have sent a cease and desist letter to leading Texas House members and two Houston attorneys demanding that the chamber halts their efforts in seeking additional evidence behind the scenes.
The letter, sent by Paxton’s attorneys Judd Stone and Chris Hilton, addressed Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont), State Rep. Andrew Murr (R–Junction), State Rep. Ann Johnson (D–Houston) as well as Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin, the two Houston attorneys leading the case against Paxton, saying they have no authority to request documents or approach witnesses until the Senate has established the rules for the impeachment.
“It has come to our attention that you and your agents have been contacting potential witnesses, including employees of the Office of the Attorney General, regarding the House’s meritless impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton. Presumably this is an after-the-fact attempt to gather facts to support your sham investigation, which has made a mockery of all Texans who believe in justice and the constitution. But whatever the reason for your refusal to conduct your investigation in public, it must stop,” the letter said.
The impeachment comes after the House Committee of General Investigating initiated an investigation of Paxton largely revolving around a settlement reached with four former employees of the Office of the Attorney General who say they were fired unfairly. Most of the charges against Paxton have been previously disputed in recent elections.
Citing Texas Government code 665.005, Hilton and Stone say the House is attempting to continue to conduct its investigation in secret, even though once the House has sent over the articles of impeachment it loses all powers to conduct impeachment proceedings.
“When the House debased itself and stained Texas’s history by voting to impeach the third-term Attorney General mere months after his overwhelming electoral victory, all jurisdiction over this matter was transferred to the Texas Senate,” the letter states. “Never before in Texas history has a House attempted to continue its impeachment investigation—much less in secret—after it approved articles and delivered them to the Senate. Indeed, once the House presented its articles, it lost all the powers that have been conferred on it to conduct impeachment proceedings.
The attorneys also argue that the investigation and impeachment were concocted behind closed doors and their process has made an anti-democratic mockery of Texas.
“Despite your public statements to the contrary, you know that your investigation and impeachment were concocted behind closed doors and without any public scrutiny, due process, or presentation of evidence that would in any way detract from your Machiavellian political objective. You have chosen to wield the awesome power of impeachment—and you purport to override the will of the voters—by means of a process that is repugnant to the principles of justice and fairness and that makes an anti-democratic mockery of our State.”
Last month, Paxton was suspended from exercising the duties of his office. Since then Gov. Greg Abbott has announced that Fort Worth Attorney John Scott will act as the interim attorney general until the trial concludes in the Senate.