TEXAS — On Thursday, the five-member Texas House General Investigating Committee unanimously voted to send 20 articles of impeachment against Attorney General Ken Paxton to the full chamber.
The next step in the process is a vote by the 149-member House. A simple majority is needed to impeach. If that happens, a “trial” will take place in the Texas Senate. Paxton could be removed from office or acquitted. Removal requires a two-thirds majority vote.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who serves as president of the Senate, on Thursday made his first public comments about the process. Speaking on Dallas-Fort Worth ABC television affiliate WFAA’s “Inside Texas Politics” program, he laid out the process.
“The process is, much like U.S. government, when there was an impeachment it came to the U.S. Senate. So here, if that comes, it goes to the Texas Senate and there will be a trial conducted,” Patrick told “Inside Texas Politics” reporter Jason Whitley. “I’m not at liberty to say anything beyond that because I will be presiding over that case and the senators, all 31 senators, will have a vote, and we’ll set the rules for that trial as we go forward.”
Patrick said Texas senators would approach the trial like any juror would.
“I don’t cast a vote. The 31 members cast a vote. I preside over it. We will all be responsible as any juror would be, if that [trial] turns out to be, and I think the members will do their duty,” he said.
The House Investigating Committee intends to call up a vote to impeach Paxton at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
In February, Paxton agreed to settle a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former aides who accused him of corruption. The $3.3 million payout must be approved by the House and Republican Speaker Dade Phelan has said he doesn’t think taxpayers should foot the bill.
Shortly after the settlement was reached, the House investigation into Paxton began.
Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his office to help a donor. He was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, but has yet to stand trial.
The 20 articles of impeachment include bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust. If the House votes to impeach Paxton, he would be forced to leave the office immediately and for the duration of the trial, pending the outcome.
On Friday, Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi came to Paxton’s defense in a statement, suggesting the Texas House is at war with Republicans and impeachment proceedings are an attempt to overturn Paxton’s recent reelection.
“Speaker Dade Phelan and his leadership team have appointed Democrats to high ranking leadership positions, attacked the Republican Party of Texas, battled our conservative Lieutenant Governor, and killed Governor Abbott’s top priorities,” Rinaldi wrote. “The impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General are but the latest front in the Texas House’s war against Republicans to stop the conservative direction of our state.”
“The voters have supported General Paxton through three elections – and his popularity has only grown despite millions of dollars spent to try to defeat him,” Rinaldi continued. “Now the Texas House is trying to overturn election results.”
Paxton has characterized impeachment proceedings against him as an attempt to overturn his election as well.
“Only months ago, Texans went to the polls and made a choice. They made their choice during a primary where over 1.5 million Texans cast their vote. They made that choice again when over 8 million people voted in the general election,” Paxton wrote in a statement. “Just yesterday, four liberal lawyers put forward a report to the House General Investigating Committee based on hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims. Today, that Committee has asked the Texas House of Representatives to use their unsubstantiated report to overturn the results of a free and fair election.”
Paxton petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to block President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory over former President Donald Trump. That prompted an investigation and lawsuit by the State Bar of Texas.