For the third time in as many days, I say Wow.
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.
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.
The move to impeach came less than a week after the House General Investigating Committee revealed that it was investigating Paxton for what members described as a yearslong pattern of misconduct and questionable actions that include bribery, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice. They presented the case against him Saturday, acknowledging the weight of their actions.
“Today is a very grim and difficult day for this House and for the state of Texas,” Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, a committee member, told House members.
“We have a duty and an obligation to protect the citizens of Texas from elected officials who abuse their office and their powers for personal gain,” Spiller said. “As a body, we should not be complicit in allowing that behavior.”
Paxton supporters criticized the impeachment proceedings as rushed, secretive and based on hearsay accounts of actions taken by Paxton, who was not given the opportunity to defend himself to the investigating committee.
“This process is indefensible,” said Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, who complained that the vote was taking place on a holiday weekend before members had time to conduct a thorough review of the accusations. “It concerns me a lot because today it could be General Paxton, tomorrow it could be you and the next day it could be me.”
The vote came as hardline conservatives supportive of Paxton’s aggressive strategy of suing the Biden administration were lining up in support of him. Former President Donald Trump — a close political ally to Paxton — blasted the impeachment proceedings as an attempt to unseat “the most hard working and effective” attorney general and thwart the “large number of American Patriots” who voted for Paxton.
Trump vowed to target any Republican who voted to impeach Paxton.
As lawmakers listened to the committee members make their case, Paxton took to social media to boost conservatives who had come to his defense, including Trump, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, and conservative radio host Grant Stinchfield, who tweeted, “Kangaroo Court in Texas.”
About 90 minutes into the debate, the official Twitter account of the Texas attorney general’s office began tweeting at members of the committee to challenge some of the claims being made.
“Please tell the truth,” the agency’s account said.
Because Paxton was impeached while the Legislature was in session, the Texas Constitution requires the Senate to remain in Austin after the regular session ends Monday or set a trial date for the future, with no deadline for a trial spelled out in the law.
See here and here for the background. The Trib did some liveblogging of the proceedings, and DMN reported Lauren McGaughy was livetweeting it. You can see how every member voted here. Of interest: Every member from Paxton’s home base of Collin County voted Aye. Everyone in Harris County voted Aye except Reps. Harless (HD126, Nay), Paul (HD129, Nay), Schofield (HD132, Nay), Swanson (HD150, Nay), and Harold Fucking Dutton (Present, Not Voting). Rep. Tom Oliverson was an Excused Absence, and Rep. Shawn Thierry was marked as absent.
As noted before, if Paxton is convicted Greg Abbott will appoint a replacement, who would then have to run in 2024. He can appoint an interim AG pending the Senate action, but has not yet said anything as of the drafting of this post. We do have this:
UPDATE: First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster will serve as attorney general in Paxton’s stead, according to an internal memo sent to staff and obtained by @dallasnews.
@GovAbbott can also appoint an interim AG but he has not done so.
— Lauren McGaughy (@lmcgaughy) 6:09 PM – 27 May 2023
We wait to see when the Senate will act. I’ll have some further thoughts later. The Chron, WFAA, the Statesman, Texas Public Radio, the San Antonio Report, the Texas Signal, Reform Austin, Daily Kos, TPM, Mother Jones, and the Press have more.