Ellen McCluskey holds a sign outside the Senate Chamber during the impeachment trial for suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.Eric Gay/AP Photo
Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.When 70 percent of Texas House Republicans voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton in May, commentators expressed hope that the scandal-plagued lawyer would finally be held accountable for a multitude of alleged crimes—and perhaps most importantly, by members of his own party, who hold large majorities in the state legislature and who seem to have no limit of their tolerance for malfeasance commited by Republicans.
As Mother Jones‘ Tim Murphy wrote after the vote in May:
The hearing that preceded the impeachment vote was remarkable—less because of what it uncovered, but because of who was uncovering it. For nearly a decade, Republicans in Texas have been Ken Paxton’s enablers. He has been under indictment for a felony securities fraud-charge since 2015—accused of breaking a law that he himself helped pass. A significant number of Texas Republicans, it’s true, have at times backed primary challengers promising to clean house, but conservatives have ultimately been willing to look the other way—or even gleefully join Paxton’s cause—because he’s ruthless about using his power to advance the conservative agenda. But Wednesday’s hearing was something new: A detailed accounting of his petty corruption, unprofessionalism, and abuses of power, brought to life by the only people in Texas with the clout to rein him in—his fellow Republicans.
Paxton’s impeachment came about after some of his staff members, all conservative Republicans, reported him to the FBI for alleged unethical and unusual behavior towards a real estate developer and major donor. (For a full rundown of the allegations against Paxton, read Murphy’s profile.) When they told Paxton what they’d done, he fired them. They filed a wrongful termination suit. In February this year, Paxton asked the legislature to cover the more than $3 million settlement his office negotiated with the whistleblowers, an ask that legislators rejected. Instead, they decided to investigate in secret, to see whether the complaints had merit. Turns out they did, and in May, after the release of their investigative report, the House voted to impeach Paxton.
That burst of Republican integrity was short lived, as the Senate on Saturday refused to vote to impeach the AG on any of the 16 counts against him. In a statement released after the vote, Paxton thanked his wife Angela, who serves in the legislature and sat through his trial, which included lengthy testimony about an alleged affair he was having. (His mistress was on hand to testify but was never called.) And he promised to address Texas and the nation on Tucker Carlson’s show next week.
My statement on today’s Senate acquittal vote: pic.twitter.com/XZrbfEB5ny
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) September 16, 2023
Republican Speaker of the House Dade Phelan released his own statement slamming colleagues who voted to acquit, and he promised that their vote would not be the end of the matter. “It is unfortunate that the outcome of this process will ultimately relinquish control of the state’s top law enforcement agency to an individual who, I believe, clearly abused his power, compromised his agency and its employees, and moved mountains to protect and benefit himself,” he said.
Republican TX Speaker of the House Dade Phelan issues a scathing statement after TX Senate acquits Ken Paxton. Condemns Lt. Gov Patrick for bias while presiding over the trial, Paxton for his corruption, and the Senators who voted to acquit. pic.twitter.com/LspeParaSF
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) September 16, 2023