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Will AG Paxton Face Impeachment?

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton faces uncertain consequences following a House corruption probe into a range of serious crimes. The House Committee on General Investigating, which looked into allegations of power abuse to benefit a campaign donor, presented its findings on Wednesday.

The investigators cited evidence of abuse of official capacity, misuse of official information, misapplication of fiduciary property, and acceptance of an improper gift by Paxton. However, the committee adjourned without taking further action, leaving the future course of action uncertain.

Paxton swiftly responded, dismissing the allegations as baseless and implying that House leadership was orchestrating his removal from office. The investigation and public hearing have intensified the clash between the Republican-led House and Paxton, setting the stage for a potentially contentious showdown in the final days of the 2023 legislative session.

Dick DeGuerin, a Houston attorney experienced in defending state officials against accusations, suggested that lawmakers might be laying the groundwork for Paxton’s impeachment.

“The next step would be impeachment, I believe, and that’s always a highly politically charged thing,” DeGuerin said.

Impeachment in Texas involves a two-stage process: a majority vote in the House to approve impeachment, followed by a trial in the Senate to evaluate the evidence. Conviction and removal from office require a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

An additional complication arises from the fact that Paxton’s wife, Angela, serves as a state senator. The scenario of a wife participating in the impeachment of her husband would be unprecedented and dramatic.

Impeachment in Texas has been rare, with only two state officials removed from office since 1836. Gov. James E. “Pa” Ferguson faced impeachment in 1917, while Judge O.P. Carrillo was impeached and removed in 1975. No Texas attorney general has ever faced this fate.

Apart from impeachment, the Legislature can impose penalties such as censure, a formal statement of disapproval, or pass laws to curtail an official’s power. Recent examples include the admonishment and censure of University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall and the expulsion of Rep. Bryan Slaton following a House investigation into his misconduct.

The legislative session’s impending conclusion further complicates the situation. The House can initiate impeachment proceedings while in session, but once adjourned, they can reconvene for impeachment only through a proclamation from the governor, a majority vote, or a petition from at least 50 House members.

The Senate can either continue as a court of impeachment beyond the session or adjourn and set a future date for proceedings. The governor retains the authority to call a special session at any time. The regular session is scheduled to end on May 29.

Written by RA News staff.


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