Despite major opposition from conservative voices, the Texas House voted 121-23 to impeach Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton in a rare and rushed Saturday meeting.
House Speaker Dade Phelan, who traditionally abstains from most votes, registered an affirmative vote following Paxton’s call for his resignation due to apparent intoxication on the house floor.
The vote was also Democrat-led, with 61 Democrats and 60 Republicans voting for the motion.
The move comes just days after the House General Investigating Committee heard testimony from a group of five investigators secretly appointed by the committee back in March. The investigators largely rehashed the ongoing indictment of Paxton on securities fraud charges that has been likened to a “political prosecution” for eight years and have been the focus of multiple campaigns.
The main focus of the investigator’s report was a settlement reached with four former employees of the Office of the Attorney General who say they were fired unfairly.
In October 2020, eight of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s top aides accused him of bribery and abuse of office. After being terminated from employment, four of the employees filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Paxton, where they alleged that Paxton did political favors for Nate Paul, a real estate developer and donor, by having his office intervene in his legal disputes.
Much of the opposition surrounding Saturday’s impeachment proceedings centered on the rushed and hollow nature of the investigation.
State Rep. Andrew Murr (R–Kerrville)—who chairs the House General Investigating Committee that referred the impeachment—revealed early on during an exchange with State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler) that committee members did not interview or cross-examine witnesses, nor were the witnesses placed under oath. Nate Paul was never even contacted by the committee.
Additionally, House members were given no opportunity to talk to the investigators or access witness transcripts.
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) noted that all of the investigators hired by the committee had worked with State Rep. Ann Johnson (D–Houston), who serves as the committee’s vice chair. He also pointed out that four of the five investigators have Democrat voting records, to which Murr replied, “I don’t care how they voted.”
Earlier Saturday morning, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz called the impeachment a “travesty.”
1/x What is happening to @KenPaxtonTX is a travesty.
For the last nine years, Ken has been the strongest conservative AG in the country. Bar none. No attorney general has battled the abuses of the Biden admin more ferociously—and more effectively—than has Paxton.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) May 27, 2023
Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, said he would fight any Republican who voted for the impeachment resolution.
Following the vote, Paxton called out the impeachment for being illegal, unfounded, and unethical.
“The ugly spectacle in the Texas House today confirmed the outrageous impeachment plot against me was never meant to be fair or just. It was a politically motivated sham from the beginning. My office made every effort to present evidence, testimony, and irrefutable facts that would have disproven the countless false statements and outright lies advanced by Speaker Dade Phelan and the Murr-Johnson panel he appointed. Unfortunately, they refused to consider anything that would interfere with their desired result. They disregarded the law, ignored the facts, and demonstrated contempt for Texas voters,” said Paxton.
Paxton went on to criticize Phelan for his role in killing conservative legislation.
Texas voters now know that Speaker Phelan and the corrupt politicians he controls are more focused on political retribution against conservatives than the welfare of the people. Instead of passing critical legislation that would strengthen our border, protect our elections, or stop the Chinese Communist Party from buying up Texas land, they chose to spend the final days of the legislative session smearing me.
Phelan’s coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans is now in lockstep with the Biden Administration, the abortion industry, anti-gun zealots, and woke corporations to sabotage my work as Attorney General, including our ongoing litigation to stop illegal immigration, uphold the rule of law, and protect the constitutional rights of every Texan.
The issue will now be sent to the Senate for a trial where he would be required to be convicted by two-thirds of the senators in order to be removed from office. Pending the outcome of that trial, Paxton will be suspended from his duties.