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Texas AG Ken Paxton slapped with whopping 20 articles of impeachment after years of alleged wrongdoing — what to know


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

A Texas panel took a major step forward to remove its embattled Republican attorney general Thursday when a committee of the state’s legislature filed 20 articles of impeachment against Ken Paxton. The next step is for the full Texas House to hold a hearing to vote on whether to impeach Paxton, a three-term elected attorney general.

Paxton’s first-of-its-kind would-be removal from office represents a significant departure from typical Lone Star State politics that is particularly unexpected against the backdrop of the state’s political makeup. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and both Republican-controlled chambers of the state legislature form a GOP-trifecta that has worked to put Texas squarely in line with a conservative agenda — from attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election to implementing novel abortion restrictions to curtailing transgender medical care.

Paxton, who is under separate indictment for securities fraud and has been since 2015, could now face an impeachment trial over widespread alleged abuses that range from accepting bribes to obstructing justice to misusing millions in taxpayer funds to end a wrongful termination lawsuit against him by former staffers.

Lone Star impeachments

Texas’s process for impeaching a state attorney general mirrors in part the process for impeaching a U.S. president: the House of Representatives impeaches, then the Senate conducts a trial. If the subject is convicted at the impeachment trial, then the Senate holds the power to remove the person from office and disqualify them from “holding any office of honor, trust or profit” in the state. Texas’s procedure departs significantly, however, in that during its impeachment proceedings, the subject is suspended from office.

Moreover, Texas law, unlike federal law, specifically ties impeachment to criminal action in several regards. Under Texas law, a party convicted on impeachment “shall also be subject to indictment trial and punishment.”

Compared with the somewhat amorphous “high crimes and misdemeanors” impeachment language in the U.S. Constitution, the Texas state constitution is even less clear on what constitutes grounds for impeachment of a public official. It provides no specific guidelines for impeachable offenses, but rather, mentions impeachment alongside criminal prosecutions, giving an impeached official the rights of criminal defendants and giving the governor the power to pardon a person convicted after impeachment as a kind of  “criminal case.”

There is disagreement even among experts as to whether federal law permits an official to be impeached for misconduct before or after they enter office. Texas law, however, specifies that an official cannot be removed from office for an act committed prior to their election.

If a simple majority of the Texas House votes to impeach Paxton, the Texas Senate will next conduct a trial in which senators are expected to act as impartial adjudicators. If two-thirds of senators present vote to convict, Paxton would be permanently removed from office.


The legislative calendar threatens to have serious impact on a Paxton impeachment: the current legislative session ends on May 29. If the House is mid-impeachment proceedings when the session ends, it could choose to continue the process or adjourn and reconvene another time. If the process has not begun at the time the session ends, though, the House could only conduct impeachment proceedings if it receives a proclamation to do so. That proclamation could come from Abbott, a majority of state representatives, or at least 50 members of the House plus the House Speaker.

If Paxton were to be impeached, the Texas Senate would then have the power to set a day and time for trial, and could continue that trial beyond the end of the legislative session or choose to reconvene at a later time. Both the House and Senate have the power under Texas law to call for documents, witnesses, and testimony, and could also meet privately for deliberations.

The potential for decision-making on Paxton’s impeachment to occur outside public view was flagged as potentially problematic by impeachment and political investigations expert Ross Garber.

“The lack of any participation by @KenPaxtonTX and not holding substantial public hearings are particularly notable since Paxton will be suspended from office pending trial. In other words, the results of a democratic election will be set aside,” Garber said in a tweet.

“Typically state impeachment trials are more robust than those involving a US President, and more closely resemble a court trial, including the testimony of witnesses,” Garber also noted.

Paxton himself criticized impeachment proceedings against him via Twitter on Thursday, commenting, “Overturning elections begins behind closed doors,” as he posted a video of an attorney from his office arguing that the allegations against Paxton were “filled with falsehoods and misrepresentations.”

Paxton’s opposition to overturning elections was particularly notable in light of his repeated attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Paxton attempted to sue the states of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin over alleged “irregularities” in states won by President Joe Biden in a lawsuit dubbed “bats—t insane” by Florida’s Republican attorney general.

The allegations against Paxton

After Thursday’s vote, the committee filed 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton, seeking to charge him with more than 20 separate alleged abuses of power, including: Taking bribes; obstructing justice in a criminal case pending against him; using his office to appoint an attorney to investigate a baseless complaint and issue 30 improper grand jury subpoenas; and violating state whistleblower laws by firing employees who reported his misconduct, then attempting to settle a lawsuit brought by the whistleblowers by using millions in taxpayer funds.

According to the impeachment articles, Paxton also directed senior staffers to do $72,000 worth of taxpayer-funded work for donor and real-estate investor Nate Paul, then improperly provided Paul with an FBI file related to an investigation of him.

In August 2021, Paxton cleared himself of bribery allegations in an unsigned report from his office, saying: “Based upon the evidence collected and review of all relevant factors, it is the finding of this report that former political appointees of General Paxton had no basis for their criminal complaint.”

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos