UPDATE: The Texas House General Investigating Committee has just announced that the hearing on whether to impeach Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will begin at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday, May 27). The hearing is expected to last four hours.
The House needs only a simple majority vote to impeach Paxton. If he is impeached, the matter then moves to the Texas Senate for trial. The Senate, if it chooses to hold a trial, needs a two-thirds vote to convict.
Texas law requires that the minute the impeachment process begins against a state official, that individual is immediately suspended from their office and remains suspended until the process is complete. If that person is eventually cleared, they can return to their office. If the Senate votes to convict, they are removed from office permanently.
ORIGINAL POST: The Texas House General Investigating Committee voted unanimously today (Thursday, May 25) to recommend that Attorney General Ken Paxton be impeached and removed from office. The recommendation comes a day after a hearing in which investigators detailed “a yearslong pattern if alleged misconduct and lawbreaking,” the Texas Tribune reports.
Committee voted during a specially-called meeting today to refer the articles of impeach to the full House. The next step in the process is for the House to decide whether to approve the articles of impeachment. If the House votes to impeach, the matter heads to the Senate for trial.
If the Senate trial ends in conviction, Paxton would be removed from office.
As the Tribune notes, no Legislature has ever impeached an attorney general, “an extraordinary step that lawmakers have historically reserved for public officials who faced serious allegations that they had abused their powers.”
The committee members also voted to issue “preservation letters” instructing the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Facilities Commission to protect pertinent information, but committee members did not detail what information should be preserved.
In a comically ironic turn of events, earlier in the day Austin firefighters had been called to the OAG headquarters when there was a fire discovered in a Dumpster full of papers.
Paxton, of course, claimed the investigation and the move toward impeachment is the result of the “corrupt political establishment unit[ing] in an illegitimate attempt to overthrow the will of the people and disenfranchise the voters of our state.”
The possible impeachment is just latest legal worry for Paxton, who has been under federal indictment since before he first took office on charges of securities fraud and who has been the subject on a federal Department of Justice investigation since the fall of 2020 after certain members of his inner circle in the OAG reported him to the FBI for abuse of power, among other charges.
The House General Investigating Committee investigation began in March after Paxton reached a settlement with former OAG employees who filed a whistleblower suit claiming Paxton fired them in retaliation after they reported him to the FBI. The court had approved a settlement of $3.3 million, and Paxton has been pushing for the state to cover the cost — something House Speaker Dade Phelan has said will not happen. The payment is not included in the budget as approved so far.