Home Part of States Newsroom
Live updates: Now impeached, Ken Paxton blasts House vote


Live updates: Now impeached, Ken Paxton blasts House vote

May 27, 2023 | 6:00 am ET
By Texas Tribune Staff
Ken Paxton updates: Texas House impeachment vote will be an intra-GOP showdown
State Rep. Andrew S. Murr, R-Junction, chair of the General Investigating Committee, lays out articles of impeachment against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday. (Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune)

Texas House votes to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton

In a history-making late-afternoon vote, a divided Texas House chose Saturday to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, temporarily removing him from office over allegations of misconduct that included bribery and abuse of office.

The vote to adopt the 20 articles of impeachment was 121-23, with three members absent.

Attention next shifts to the Texas Senate, which will conduct a trial with senators acting as jurors and designated House members presenting their case as impeachment managers.

Permanently removing Paxton from office and barring him from holding future elected office in Texas would require the support of two-thirds of senators.

Speaker Phelan, most Republicans and all Collin County lawmakers supported impeachment

The vote to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton included some particularly notable officials — all five of the representatives from Collin County — where Paxton and his wife have lived for decades — voted in favor, as did House Speaker Dade Phelan and another two-thirds of the House’s GOP majority.

In a statement after the vote, the Collin County cohort explained their decision, which they said they “wish we didn’t have to make."

“This was an incredibly difficult vote, as, for most of us, Ken has been a longtime friend,” the representatives said. But “after hours of review and deliberation — and upon a thorough analysis of the relevant law — it became clear to us that sufficient evidence indeed exists to vote to commend articles of impeachment to the Texas Senate for a full-trial.” —Robert Downen

See how each House member voted

Most Republican and Democratic members of the House voted for Paxton’s impeachment.

Now impeached, Paxton blasts House vote

Ken Paxton blasted his impeachment and suspension from office, calling the proceeding a “politically motivated sham” pushed by Democrats and those he called “Republicans in name only.”

He is now hoping for “a quick resolution” in the Republican-dominated Texas Senate, which will hold a trial after the similarly GOP-controlled Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him as attorney general.

“I am beyond grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust,” Paxton said in a statement Saturday. “I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just.”

The Office of the Attorney General has also released a 56-page report that it says “unequivocally refutes incorrect testimony” shared to the House investigative committee. The OAG added that the report is the work of an external law firm, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, that it had hired to further examine claims of retaliation.

“This report, along with other clarifying and ultimately exonerating information, could have been readily available to the committee investigators had they merely asked,” the OAG says in a statement.

The Saturday impeachment vote mandates that Paxton be temporarily suspended from his role and Gov. Greg Abbott — a former attorney general himself — can appoint a provisional person to fill the vacancy until after the Senate conducts its trial.

— Alex Nguyen

House debates Paxton’s impeachment

The Texas House impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday afternoon. Proceedings began a little after 1 p.m., and debate lasted less than four hours.

Citing Paxton’s “long-standing pattern of abuse of office and public trust,” a memo from the House General Investigating Committee said it was imperative for the House to proceed with impeachment to prevent Paxton from using his office’s “significant powers” to further obstruct and delay justice. A simple majority was needed to send the matter to a trial before the Senate. The House will conduct the trial in the Senate through a group of House members called “managers.”

The committee stressed that Paxton’s request earlier this year for the Legislature to pay $3.3 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit led to its investigation and ultimately the articles of impeachment. The memo also said impeachment is not a criminal process and its primary purpose is to “protect the state, not to punish the offender.”

The memo also addressed arguments by lawyers with the attorney general’s office who called the committee investigation illegal because impeachment proceedings could not be initiated against Paxton for crimes alleged to have occurred before his last election in 2022. The memo said the so-called “forgiveness doctrine” did not apply in Paxton’s case. The committee cited the most famous impeachment case in Texas history to support its argument, noting that in 1917, Gov. James Ferguson was impeached on four articles that related to his conduct before and during the 1916 election. The Senate convicted Ferguson on those counts.

James Barragán

Conservative lawmakers criticize impeachment process, compare Paxton to Trump

Some Republican Texas House members are pushing back against the impeachment vote, saying it is rushed, undermines due process and is unfair to Attorney General Ken Paxton, who’d immediately be relieved of his duties if impeached, pending the outcome of a Senate trial.

House members will not hear direct testimony from witnesses or Paxton. State Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, said the investigating committee summed up hired investigators’ conclusions and that a Senate trial — if the House votes to impeach — is where witnesses will be questioned and Paxton can present a defense.

“It’s what I call the ‘hang them out and judge them later’ policy,” said state Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, who under House rules was allotted 30 minutes to respond to the committee’s report.

Smithee said that he was not making a statement on Paxton’s guilt but rather was condemning the process.

“What you have in this case is triple hearsay. … It is hearsay, within hearsay, within hearsay,” he said.

After Smithee closed his speech, applause broke out from some in the gallery overlooking the House floor.

Another lawmaker, state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, compared Paxton to former President Donald Trump, who Tinderholt said was subject to one of “the most egregious impeachments in the history of the United States.”

Tinderholt also cited recent statements in which Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz separately condemned the investigation and said they support Paxton.

— Robert Downen

Attorney for whistleblower says impeachment critics could have asked for more information about charges

Lawmakers opposed to the impeachment criticized the committee’s work, saying they could not be assured that witnesses were put under oath for their testimony guaranteeing that their testimony would be truthful.

TJ Turner, an attorney for one of the employees fired by Paxton who filed a whistleblower lawsuit, pushed back against lawmakers who were questioning the committee's investigation. The four employees who filed suit, and whose pending $3.3 million settlement set off the legislative investigation, spoke with the committee's investigators.

While lawmakers were raising questions on Saturday, Turner said no lawmakers had reached out to him since the whistleblower lawsuit was filed in November 2020, to ask questions about the whistleblowers’ claims.

"Our lawsuit has been on file for 2.5 years. It is highly detailed. The fact section is made on penalty of perjury. All of the lawyers’ phone numbers and email addresses are on the pleading and have been widely publicized," said Turner, who represents David Maxwell, a career law enforcement officer who served as director of law enforcement for the attorney general’s office until being fired. "Yet not a single one of these [representatives] questioning the process called me or my client to ask them about the allegations or to rebut them."

— James Barragán

Democratic lawmaker wants intimidation charges added to impeachment articles

A Texas House member said he will seek additional impeachment charges against Ken Paxton after the attorney general was accused Saturday of calling lawmakers and threatening their political careers if they voted for his impeachment.

“I will be submitting journal statement to amend charge document to include abuse of power, intimidation of house members, and Senate jury tampering,” state Rep. Eddie Morales Jr., D-Eagle Pass, said on Twitter as debate in the House continued Saturday afternoon.

Morales added that he wanted “to amend the charge document to include a request for reimbursement/restitution of state taxpayer funds that were incurred or expended in furtherance of Paxton’s violations!”

—Robert Downen

Accusations include bribery, obstruction of justice and dereliction of official duty

Attorney General Ken Paxton faces 20 charges in the Texas House — a range of criminal acts that include disregard of official duty, misapplication of public resources and obstruction of justice.

Collectively, the impeachment articles accuse the attorney general, reelected last year by voters who shrugged off his scandals, of a yearslong pattern of alleged misconduct and lawbreaking.

Paxton has faced allegations of wrongdoing for years, but Texas Republicans have largely avoided taking any official action against him. Shortly after first taking office, he was indicted on state securities fraud charges, a criminal case he continues fighting. In 2020, senior officials in his office asked the FBI to investigate allegations that he had abused his authority to help a wealthy friend and donor. Those claims led to a whistleblower lawsuit alleging Paxton retaliated against his former deputies.

As the hearing continued, state Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, said Paxton has a “brilliant” legal mind and deserves “praise” for pushing back against what he said is federal overreach. But he nonetheless implored House members to hold Paxton accountable.

“Members, no one person should be above the law. Least not the top law enforcement officer of the state of Texas,” he said. “We each took an oath of office. AG Paxton took an oath of office. He violated that oath. … As a body, we should not be complicit in allowing that behavior. We should not ignore it and pretend it didn't happen. Texas is better than that.”

Outlining what she said were a litany of financial crimes committed by Paxton — including those related to covering up an alleged extramarital affair — state Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston, said it was imperative for the Texas House to impeach him.

“God help us with the harms that will come to all Texans if he is allowed to stay the top cop of the state,” said Johnson, who is a member of the investigating committee. “If millions of Texans can’t trust us to do the right thing, right here, right now, then what are we here for?”

The House committee investigating Paxton said they believed he broke the law by using the agency to serve the interests of political donor Nate Paul. They accuse Paxton of using his office to investigate Paul’s adversaries and help settle a lawsuit. In return, they said, Paul helped Paxton extensively remodel his Austin house and gave a job to a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair.

The attorney general’s wife, Angela Paxton, is a state senator.

At one point Saturday, Johnson said, a “distraught” Paxton disclosed the affair to members of his staff, who were gravely concerned that it was improper and could open the attorney general’s office up to blackmail. Despite those concerns, Johnson said, Paxton got Paul to hire the woman he allegedly had an affair with — a way of keeping her in Austin, where she was closer to him, and protecting his reputation as a “Christian man” who cherishes “family values.”

For a full list of the impeachment charges, click here.

Robert Downen, Chuck Lindell, James Barragán and Patrick Svitek

Paxton political donor Nate Paul at center of many impeachment charges

After Ken Paxton, the name that Texas House members have heard the most so far during the attorney general’s impeachment hearing is Nate Paul.

“All roads lead to Nate Paul,” state Rep. Ann Johnson, a Houston Democrat who is the vice-chair of the House General Investigating Committee, said during the proceeding Saturday.

Paul, an Austin-based real estate developer who founded the investment firm World Class Capital Group, is a central figure in the yearslong allegations of wrongdoing against Paxton. Whistleblowers — the attorney general’s former deputies — alleged that he was using his official power to benefit Paul.

For instance, the nonprofit Mitte Foundation sued Paul for fraud in 2018. Paxton allegedly then pushed for his office to intervene in the lawsuit in favor of the real estate developer, though he had not previously shown interest in cases involving charities. In return, whistleblowers say, Paul donated to Paxton’s campaigns. The developer also allegedly helped Paxton renovate his home and hired a woman with whom the attorney general was allegedly having an extramarital affair.

“Paxton harmed the Mitte Foundation in an effort to benefit Paul,” said the impeachment resolution against the attorney general.

Also related to the Mitte lawsuit, a state judge in Travis County found Paul to be in contempt of court, handing him more than $180,000 in fines and ordering him to serve 10 days in jail earlier this year. The real estate developer then attempted to appeal the order but failed.

— Alex Nguyen

Paxton’s wife moves bills in the Senate during impeachment hearing

While Texas House members began debating whether to impeach Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the embattled state official’s wife was on the other side of the Capitol, pushing several of her bills forward in the Senate.

State Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, accepted final changes her bills related to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, parental rights when it comes to child care facilities and the granting of custody time with a child after a Department of Family and Protective Services investigation finds no evidence of abuse or neglect.

If her husband is impeached, the Senate will set a trial for him and all eyes will be on how or whether Angela Paxton participates. A left-leaning government watchdog group has called for her to recuse herself. One of the articles of impeachment is connected to an alleged extramarital affair her husband allegedly conducted.

On Saturday afternoon, Angela Paxton shook hands with, got a hug from and chatted with fellow senators on the upper chamber floor. At least two senators watched the impeachment proceedings from the floor when she left and work in the Senate paused.

— Emily Foxhall

Lawmaker says Paxton made politically threatening calls to legislators before vote

A member of the House General Investigative Committee said Attorney General Ken Paxton called several lawmakers and threatened them with political consequences if they voted for his impeachment.

“I would like to point out that several members of this House while on the floor of this House, doing the state business, received telephone calls from general Paxton personally, threatening them with political consequences in their next election,” state Rep. Charlie Geren said.

Geren’s claims came as part of the opening remarks of the House’s impeachment hearings. Geren spent most of his time refuting Paxton’s claims that the impeachment is a political witch hunt and that the whistleblowers who sued him were “political” appointees.

Geren reiterated what the committee said in its articles of impeachment: That it would not have scrutinized the issue had he not requested that the Legislature sign off on a $3.3 million lawsuit settlement to the former employees.

“We are here today because the attorney general asked the state Legislature to fund a multimillion-dollar settlement,” Geren said. “There was no investigation prior to this time. We wanted to look further into the reasons behind that.”

Geren then argued that the lawsuit settlement was an attempt by Paxton to conceal potential wrongdoing.

“This settlement served to stave off a trial, including a discovery process that could have brought new info to light,” he said.

— Robert Downen

Paxton’s supporters and critics line up to witness state history

Texans lined up outside the House chamber Saturday morning for the rare chance to watch impeachment proceedings against a state attorney general — an unprecedented event that comes at the tail end of the regular legislative session.

“I’m here to watch history in the making and stand for our Attorney General Ken Paxton,” said Marcia Watson, 60, with County Citizens Defending Freedom, a political nonprofit.

Watson stood in line more than an hour before the impeachment hearing was set to begin at 1 p.m.

The Capitol was busy with visitors taking photos and wandering the halls Saturday morning, but the building was otherwise calm, despite calls from Paxton last night for protesters to come in his defense. When the doors to the House opened, people filed inside, but many seats remained empty when House Speaker Dade Phelan gaveled in around 1 p.m.

Paxton, who has been at the center of several scandals, faces 20 articles of impeachment that House members will debate and vote on this afternoon.

Watson said none of the information revealed by the Texas House General Investigating Committee, which has been secretly investigating Paxton since March, is new to voters, and that voters reelected him despite the accusations and indictments against him.

She called the impeachment proceedings “political theater” and a “distraction” from the other bills that have yet to be voted on before the session ends Monday, and said she and other Paxton supporters planned to pack the gallery.

Seated on a bench outside the Capitol in the shade, Lynn Tozner was the only protester outside on a warm Saturday. She wasn’t sure if Department of Public Safety officers would let her inside with her sign that read “Remove Paxton — unfit for office.”

Although she's eager to see Paxton impeached, Tozner isn’t under any impression that will make a difference.

Tozner said when she heard that Paxton called on his supporters to come “peacefully” protest, she decided to come with her sign.

“I’m not going to let this guy hijack my state Capitol. I’m here to show my opinion,” she said, a distant ice cream truck jingling in the background.

Paxton supporters and critics formed a line outside the House gallery to watch the proceedings — an unusual sight, even during a legislative session.

Rebecca Broughton, who was at the Capitol for a second day since the impeachment was announced, offered stickers that said, “Ken Paxton Texas Attorney General” to those in line. A group wearing bright red T-shirts gladly accepted the stickers. Others quietly demurred.

On the promenade outside the Capitol, two small groups goaded each other over their opposing stances on Paxton.

Silvia Ybarra, an Austin resident who works in health care, told the Tribune that she was rallying in favor of the AG because of his conservative stances on elections and immigration.

“Ken is my hero,” her fellow Paxton supporter shouted across the walkway in front of the Capitol.

“He’s a criminal,” a Paxton critic retorted.

While the two groups lobbed insults about Democratic President Joe Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump, there did not appear to be any threats of violence or unrest.

— William Melhado and Lucy Tompkins

Trump, Cruz come to Paxton’s defense

Former President Donald Trump came out in support of Ken Paxton on Saturday shortly before the Texas House started debating the beleaguered attorney general’s impeachment. Paxton, a Trump loyalist, previously attempted to challenge the 2020 election results in several states in favor of Trump.

“Free Ken Paxton, let them wait for the next election!” Trump said on his social media platform, Truth Social.

Earlier in the day, Republican U.S. Sen Ted Cruz also expressed his backing for the attorney general in a series of tweets.

“For the last nine years, Ken has been the strongest conservative AG in the country. Bar none,” Cruz said. “No attorney general has battled the abuses of the Biden admin more ferociously—and more effectively—than has Paxton.”

But Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn — the senior senator from Texas and a former attorney general for the state — has said he found what he saw during the House investigating committee hearing “deeply troubling.”

— Alex Nguyen

Impeachment efforts set off political earthquake

​​For nearly a decade, Texas Republicans largely looked the other way as Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legal problems piled up. That abruptly changed this week.

In revealing it had been secretly investigating Paxton since March — and then recommending his impeachment Thursday — a Republican-led state House committee sought to hold Paxton accountable in a way the GOP has never come close to doing. It amounted to a political earthquake, and while it remains to be seen whether Paxton’s ousting will be the outcome, it represents a stunning act of self-policing.

The House General Investigating Committee voted unanimously to recommend impeachment of Paxton, citing a yearslong pattern of alleged misconduct and lawbreaking. The vote included all three Republicans who make up a majority on the panel — and it launched a process that will likely force every other Republican in the Legislature to go on the record.

That is something most Texas Republicans have avoided since Paxton was first elected as the state’s top legal official in 2014. Months into his first term, he was indicted on state securities fraud charges, a criminal case he is fighting to this day. And in 2020, senior officials in his office asked the FBI to investigate allegations that he had abused his authority to help a wealthy friend and donor. Those claims led to a whistleblower lawsuit alleging Paxton retaliated against his former deputies.

Along the way, there have been other scandals, like the allegation that he cheated on his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney.

Read more here.

Patrick Svitek

Conservative Republicans defend Paxton, who criticizes proceedings

Speaking briefly at a press conference a day before the anticipated House impeachment vote, Attorney General Ken Paxton said House members were “showcasing their absolute contempt for the electoral process” and “inflicting lasting damage” on their chamber, which is controlled by the GOP and whose speaker is also a Republican.

In statements and social media posts, conservatives accused their fellow Republicans in the Texas House — Speaker Dade Phelan in particular — of attempting to undermine voters and conservative values by attacking Paxton. And, largely without addressing the merits of the many accusations against Paxton, they framed him as the victim of a political witch hunt that was orchestrated by a cabal of Democrats and “Republicans in name only.”

“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,” Matt Rinaldi, chair of the Republican Party of Texas, said in a statement. “This sham impeachment is the result of the Phelan leadership team empowering Democrats, allowing them to hold leadership positions and letting them control the agenda.”

Rinaldi is thus far the highest-positioned Texas Republican to condemn the investigation. Gov. Greg Abbott has remained silent, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who would preside over an impeachment trial in the Senate, has said it would be improper for him to weigh in.

National Republicans are filling the void, however. While former President Donald Trump — a Paxton ally who endorsed his campaign before last year’s GOP primary — has not commented, his son Donald Trump Jr. said Friday that the investigation into “America First patriot Ken Paxton” is a “disgrace.”

“MAGA stands with Ken Paxton against this RINO/DEMO led witch hunt!!!” Trump Jr. tweeted.

Other prominent right-wing figures have come to Paxton’s defense. Citing Paxton’s frequent lawsuits against the Biden administration, former Trump adviser Stephen Miller called on conservatives to “stand with Ken.” And Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted of homicide after fatally shooting two Black Lives Matter protesters in Wisconsin, accused Phelan of working with “anti-gun Democrats” and “attacking our pro-gun attorney general.”

Patrick Svitek, Robert Downen and Zach Despart

One member of each party abstained

State Reps. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, and Richard Hayes, R-Denton, were the only two Texas House members to abstain from voting on Ken Paxton’s impeachment Saturday.

Prior to the vote, Dutton — who has an independent streak — was the first lawmaker to publicly say he would abstain. He said this decision is not about whether he believes Paxton is guilty or not. Instead, he attributed it to the proceeding, which he considers to be flawed.

“This is not a difficult decision for me,” he said. “The process by which we're getting this done seems to be abbreviated to the point that it encroaches on due process.”

A few speeches later, Hayes also urged House members to abstain to protest the process.

“We can come back another day,” he said.

State Rep. Terry Canales, an Edinburg Democrat who has vocally supported Paxton’s impeachment, pushed back against these criticisms in his own speech. He said House members are supposed to act like a grand jury and look for probable cause. The Texas Senate would be the body to carry out the trial.

“You heard Mr. Dutton said a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich,” Canales said. “Well, that's … how our legal system works. The threshold to end up sending someone to trial is relatively low.”

Supporters of Paxton, who are mostly Republicans from the more conservative wing of the party, have called the impeachment process a sham.

— Alex Nguyen