The Texas House Just Impeached Its Republican Attorney General

Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton reads a statement about impeachment at his office in Austin, Texas, May 26, 2023. Eric Gay/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.In a stunning turn of events, the GOP-controlled Texas House of Representatives voted Saturday to impeach the state’s Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton.
In a 121 to 23 vote, with five others absent or abstaining, the state House approved twenty articles of impeachment against Paxton on grounds including bribery, obstruction of justice, and dereliction of duty. Among other things, Paxton is accused of doing favors for a top campaign donor, then firing whistleblowers in his office—four high-ranking Republican staffers—who raised legal concerns about his actions. He subsequently tried to get the state legislature to cover the cost of a $3.3 million settlement over their claims.
“Attorney General Paxton abused his office and his power for personal gain,” said Republican State Rep. David Spiller, a member of the House Committee on General Investigating. “He put the interests of himself over the laws of the state of Texas.” 
Paxton will be temporarily removed from office pending a trial in the state Senate. Texas’ legislature is one of the most conservative in the country, which makes Saturday’s vote all the more remarkable.
Paxton is best known as a staunch ally of Donald Trump who in December 2020 filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state of Texas that sought to invalidate presidential election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, in an attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the case because Texas did not have standing to challenge the voting procedures of another state.
Paxton was indicted for securities fraud in 2015, shortly after being sworn into office, but has yet to be held accountable by courts or voters. After years of allegations of corruption against him, a Texas House committee unanimously recommended the impeachment charges on May 25, leading to the full House vote. Shortly before the House investigation became public, Paxton called on Speaker of the House Dade Phelan to resign, falsely accusing him of presiding over the body while drunk.
Paxton has portrayed the impeachment charges against him as an effort to overturn the will of the voters—which, as my colleague Tim Murphy wrote, is rather astonishing, considering Paxton’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election and nullify ten million votes cast for Biden in four battleground states whose voters he didn’t represent.
Paxton has managed to survive scandal after scandal by aligning himself with Trump and the far-right causes that animate his MAGA base. Before the vote, Trump wrote “Free Ken Paxton” on Truth Social and vowed to “fight” Republican lawmakers who voted for impeachment. Paxton reportedly called state legislators while they were on the House floor to threaten them with “political consequences in their next election,” said Republican State Rep. Charlie Geren, a member of the House investigative committee. But his time may have finally run out—and it was Republicans, not Democrats or the liberal media, who finally sealed his fate.
As she laid out the many charges against the attorney general—including allegations that Paxton induced a top donor to give his mistress a job in Austin so that he didn’t have to drive to San Antonio to see her—fellow committee member Ann Johnson, a Democrat from Houston, said the legislature faced a “fork in the road.” 
“Either this is going to be the beginning of the end of his criminal reign,” she said, “or God help us with the harms that will come to all Texans if he is allowed to stay the top cop.”