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Texas House panel moves to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The attorney general of Texas faces possible impeachment.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Ken Paxton is a Republican, but so is the majority of the committee that says he abused his power. Investigators gave that legislative committee a list of alleged illegal acts, including bribery, obstruction of justice and abuse of public trust. Paxton has denied all the allegations. He's repeatedly drawn national attention, as in 2020, when he joined the effort to overturn the presidential election. It's only now that he is losing some of his party's support.

INSKEEP: The Texas Newsroom's Sergio Martinez-Beltran is on the line from Austin.

Hey there, Sergio.

SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: As Michel noted, hasn't Paxton been an attention-grabbing figure for many years?

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: He has. Paxton first won the AG's office about a decade ago and has been reelected twice since then. He's a conservative. And he's very popular with Republican voters here in Texas and a big supporter of former President Donald Trump. Now, he's also controversial inside and outside of the Republican Party. That's in part because he's made a name by being strict on issues like voter fraud and for fighting with the Obama and Biden administrations over immigration, federal spending and medication abortion. But Paxton might be best known for this fact. He was indicted on securities fraud about eight years ago and has yet to face a trial. He's also facing a federal investigation over alleged abuse of his office.

INSKEEP: OK, but his supporters stuck with him through all of that. Why are some in his party turning against him now?

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: The whole reason for this House investigation, Steve, is because Paxton's office asked the Texas legislature for $3.3 million for a settlement he's on the hook for. That money would go to four of his former employees who were fired in 2020 after making accusations about Paxton's alleged misdeeds related to a man named Nate Paul. Nate Paul is an Austin real estate investor and a political donor to Paxton. He was being investigated by the FBI. And according to the House probe, Paxton tried to use his office to intervene and even fight federal law enforcement.

The legislature, however, doesn't want to pay for that settlement, so here we are. Now, the list of allegations against Paxton is very long. In fact, there are 20 articles of impeachment. They include constitutional bribery, abuse of official capacity. But like you said earlier, Paxton denies any wrongdoing. And he's even accused the speaker of the Texas House, who is also a Republican, of trying to push him out of office.

INSKEEP: Well, what are the next steps after this committee has taken its action?

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: So now the articles of impeachment move to the House floor for a vote by the full chamber. It would only require a simple majority to impeach him. And as it was mentioned earlier, that panel is led by Republicans. So this isn't necessarily a partisan vote. And we already know multiple Republicans will vote for this resolution. They will vote to impeach. Now, we still don't know when that will happen, but the final day of the legislative session is Monday. So if it doesn't happen by then, lawmakers will have to return to Austin. If the House votes to impeach him, Paxton will be suspended from his duties while the state Senate gets a trial prepared and decides whether to convict him. And the Texas Senate does indeed have the power to remove an attorney general from office. In fact, his wife, Angela Paxton, is one of the senators who would have to vote.

INSKEEP: That's the Texas Newsroom's Sergio Martinez-Beltran.

Thanks so much.

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.