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TX GOP-Held House to Start Impeachment 05/27 08:06


   AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas' GOP-led House of Representatives was set to 
hold historic impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Ken Paxton on 
Saturday as the scandal-plagued Republican called on supporters to protest a 
vote that could lead to his ouster.

   The House scheduled an afternoon start for debate on whether to impeach and 
suspend Paxton from office over allegations of bribery, unfitness for office 
and abuse of public trust -- just some of the accusations that have trailed 
Texas' top lawyer for most of his three terms.

   The hearing sets up what could be a remarkably sudden downfall for one of 
the GOP's most prominent legal combatants, who in 2020 asked the U.S. Supreme 
Court to overturn Joe Biden's electoral defeat of President Donald Trump. Only 
two officials in Texas' nearly 200-year history have been impeached.

   Paxton, 60, has called the impeachment proceedings "political theater" based 
on "hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims," and an attempt to 
disenfranchise voters who re-elected him in November. On Friday he asked 
supporters "to peacefully come let their voices be heard at the Capitol 

   Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he 
used his office to help a donor and was separately indicted on securities fraud 
charges in 2015, though he has yet to stand trial. Until this week his fellow 
Republicans have taken a muted stance on the allegations.

   Impeachment requires just a simple majority in the House. That means only a 
small fraction of its 85 Republicans would need to join 64 Democrats in voting 
against him.

   If impeached, Paxton would be removed from office pending a Senate trial, 
and it would fall to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to appoint an interim 
replacement. Final removal would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, where 
Paxton's wife's, Angela, is a member.

   Texas' top elected Republicans have been notably quiet about Paxton this 
week. But some party members began to rally around him Friday, with the state 
GOP chairman, Matt Rinaldi, calling the process a "sham."

   In one sense, Paxton's political peril arrived with dizzying speed: The 
House committee's investigation of him came to light Tuesday, and by Thursday 
lawmakers issued 20 articles of impeachment.

   But to Paxton's detractors, the rebuke was years overdue.

   In 2014 he admitted to violating Texas securities law, and a year later he 
was indicted on securities fraud charges in his hometown near Dallas, accused 
of defrauding investors in a tech startup. He pleaded not guilty to two felony 
counts carrying a potential sentence of five to 99 years.

   He opened a legal defense fund and accepted $100,000 from an executive whose 
company was under investigation by Paxton's office for Medicaid fraud. An 
additional $50,000 was donated by an Arizona retiree whose son Paxton later 
hired to a high-ranking job but was soon fired after displaying child 
pornography in a meeting. In 2020, Paxton intervened in a Colorado mountain 
community where a Texas donor and college classmate faced removal from his 
lakeside home under coronavirus orders.

   But what ultimately unleased the impeachment push was Paxton's relationship 
with Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.

   In 2020, eight top aides told the FBI they were concerned Paxton was 
misusing his office to help Paul over the developer's unproven claims that an 
elaborate conspiracy to steal $200 million of his properties was afoot. The FBI 
searched Paul's home in 2019, but he has not been charged and denies 
wrongdoing. Paxton also told staff members he had an affair with a woman who, 
it later emerged, worked for Paul.

   The impeachment accuses Paxton of attempting to interfere in foreclosure 
lawsuits and issuing legal opinions to benefit Paul. Its bribery charges allege 
that Paul employed the woman with whom Paxton had an affair in exchange for 
legal help and that he paid for expensive renovations to the attorney general's 

   A senior lawyer for Paxton's office, Chris Hilton, said Friday that the 
attorney general paid for all repairs and renovations.

   Other charges, including lying to investigators, date back to Paxton's 
still-pending securities fraud indictment.

   Four of the aides who reported Paxton to the FBI later sued under Texas' 
whistleblower law, and in February he agreed to settle the case for $3.3 
million. The House committee said it was Paxton seeking legislative approval 
for the payout that sparked their probe.

   "But for Paxton's own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his 
wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment," the panel said.

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