The Texas House made two historic decisions this session.
The first was to expel a House Member for the first time in about a century. Earlier this session, I voted to expel former Representative Bryan Slaton after it was determined he got his 19 year-old intern drunk and had sex with her. He followed that by threatening other staff members in order to keep them quiet. It was an historic decision, but it was needed for the integrity of the House and the honor of our staff members.
The second historic decision was in the closing days of the 88th Texas Legislature. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Texas House General Investigating Committee investigated Attorney General Ken Paxton for months and ultimately filed 20 articles of impeachment. I voted in favor of the resolution, sending his case to the Texas Senate for a trial and possible conviction.
It’s important to note the House’s role in this situation. Unlike the Federal Constitution, the Texas Constitution outlines no specific grounds for impeachment. Nor does it rest on the House to determine guilt. The Texas House’s role is simply to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to recommend a trial in the Senate. The Senate’s process will be similar to any other trial, where witnesses will be called, directly and cross examined, where evidence will be reviewed, and a judgement rendered.
How did we get here?
In 2020, multiple senior aides of the Attorney General, many of whom were conservative stalwarts appointed by Paxton himself, reported to the FBI their concerns Paxton was misusing his office to help multi-millionaire real estate developer and donor, Nate Paul. Subsequently, these aides were fired. After a Texas appeals court ruled against Paxton, he agreed to pay $3.3 million in a settlement to his former senior aides for their wrongful termination. His request to use taxpayer funds for this settlement sparked the investigation into his actions as Attorney General, uncovering a litany of abuses such as constitutional bribery, disregard for official duty, obstruction of justice in a pending securities fraud case, making false statements on official documents, and abusing public trust. Each of these actions were to benefit himself or his donor, Nate Paul. To be clear, many of the allegations against Ken Paxton make it appear that his donor, Nate Paul, had complete leverage over and use of the Office of the Attorney General for his own personal gain. Despite Ken Paxton’s record as a conservative fighter, these abuses and illegal acts cannot and should not be overlooked. In fact, as a Republican and as the chief law enforcement officer for the state, I would expect an even higher bar for Mr. Paxton.
Given the totality of the alleged abuses, each one of which may in itself be grounds for impeachment, I voted today to continue this process by impeaching Attorney General Ken Paxton. You can watch the GI Committee hearing where the facts of the case were stated publicly for the first time here.
Among the 20 articles of impeachment, Ken Paxton is accused of:
• Repeatedly manipulating the legal system to his personal, political, and financial gain, abusing the power of the office for both himself, his friends, and political donors;
• Engaging in bribery by providing legal favors and specialized access in exchange for renovations to his home and other personal benefits;
• Directing employees to reverse legal conclusions, act contrary to law, and abandon legal precedent when it could benefit him or his friends;
• Abusing the power of his office to obtain private DPS and FBI files related to an investigation of his friend, which he then provided to that friend, giving the friend premature details of law enforcement’s case against him;
• Purposely concealing facts which deprived the electorate of opportunities to make informed decisions;
• Taking adverse action against “whistleblower” employees who reported his illegal conduct before launching a public and private smear campaign to besmirch their reputations and jeopardize their future employment.
What about the process?
It’s important to note that several members of the Texas House and the public have stated discomfort with the process the Texas House followed to arrive at this conclusion. Some of whom have even stated impeachment was “illegal” or “unconstitutional”. These claims fall flat, particularly from House Members who voted to adopt the House Rules on the first day of the legislative session. The House General Investigating Committee followed the process outlined under law, the House Rules, and the constitution to the letter. Moreover, the ridiculous claim that somehow these crimes were committed before the election is preposterous. Imagine any elected official committing a crime moments before the polls close and being completely released from any liability at 7pm! The statute often referenced, incorrectly, is not related to a statewide elected official nor does it preclude the impeachment process.
The committee hired several experienced attorneys and investigators with a background in white collar crimes to conduct the investigation. They interviewed witnesses. They examined the facts before them. They presented a recommendation to the body and the body voted. This is the exact process outlined and agreed upon by Members of the Texas House just five months ago.
It’s also important to note that General Paxton was invited to provide testimony during one dozen committee hearings for the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence. He was also invited to provide testimony before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations. Thus far, he has either declined to testify in the House or refute the charges. Additionally, no House Member who voted against impeachment stated the reason was due to his innocence – just concern over the process (which was adopted by those same Members in January). As far as I can tell, no one who has read the facts of the case believes he is innocent.