UPDATE: Mark Sumner
Texas has set the impeachment vote on Paxton for Saturday. They’re moving fast and getting this messy business done on a weekend where it will get reduced coverage.
If the House votes to impeach, Paxton will be removed from his position immediately until the results of his trial in the Senate. His wife is one of the states senators who will be voting on his impeachment. Considering the nature of the charges against him, her vote may be up for grabs.
On Thursday evening, a special investigative committee of the Texas Legislature officially filed charges of impeachment against state Attorney General Ken Paxton. As The Texas Tribune reports, the document includes “20 articles listing a yearslong pattern of alleged misconduct and lawbreaking.”
The chair of that committee has already announced that he will call for Paxton’s impeachment. On Wednesday, members of that committee voted unanimously that the attorney general should be impeached. If it happens, it will be a first: No attorney general has been impeached in the history of the state.
Paxton has issued a response calling the legislators members of the “corrupt political establishment,” and posted a statement on Twitter in which he called on the speaker of the Republican-led House to resign for, among other things, allowing “Chinese spies” to control Texas land. He’s also declared that Texas Republicans are tools of President Joe Biden and the Washington elite, all of which should make the upcoming hearings even more enjoyable.
Before you reach for the popcorn, here’s a reminder of some of the “accomplishments” that have marked Paxton’s career.
On Jan. 6, 2021, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stood in front of the Trump supporters gathered at the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington and delivered a speech that made clear allusions to the Civil War. “One of the great things about the state of Texas is, we did not quit,” said Paxton. “If you look at Georgia, they capitulated, they consented. We kept fighting in Texas.” That’s not exactly a record to be brought up with pride, but then there’s little to be proud about anywhere in Paxton’s record.
Just hours after he urged Trump supporters to, like Texas, “keep fighting” and watched them march toward the Capitol, Paxton swore that it was not Trump supporters who smashed their way into the building. “These are not Trump supporters,” Paxton wrote on Twitter. Instead he blamed the insurgency on the forces of antifa. When Paxton was asked about his sources, he said he was only reporting what he heard from a “journalist,” by which he meant the fascism-friendly conspiracy site WorldNetDaily.
Paxton topped off his Jan. 6 escapades by refusing to turn over records related to his own appearance at the rally. As with so many things related to Paxton, that battle went to court, where he did what he is so good at doing: make irrational arguments and lose. But those Jan. 6 events were just one small item on the checklist of all things Paxton.
The Texas constitution states that if Paxton is impeached in the House, he will immediately be removed from office until his trial in the Senate. Should he survive that trial, Paxton could go back to misusing his office, as he has always done.
Why is Paxton up for impeachment? Take your pick.
The FBI investigation into how Paxton used his office to illegally help a donor.
The indictment for fraud that Paxton’s Republican supporters have stalled for years, in part by blocking attorneys prosecuting the case from getting paid. As the AP pointed out, it’s not many people who can avoid going to trial on felony charges for seven straight years—and they made that point last year.
The $3.3 million that Paxton had to pay out to settle a whistleblower case after a group of his own deputies raised warnings about his actions, including “abuse of office and other crimes.”
An affair with a woman he later promoted to a high-paying job in a case so tangled it’s hard to tell if it’s bribery or extortion.
Multiple reports of bribery still under investigation that have not yet been detailed.
There’s also a state bar association investigation into lies Paxton told in court in an effort to overturn the 2020 election, but it’s unlikely the Republican-led legislature was upset by that point.
Both the legislature and the voters of Texas have supported Paxton over the years as he carried on a crusade of lies and distortions, becoming the poster boy for how a state attorney general’s office could be used to prosecute a political agenda. It's impossible to briefly list all the efforts Paxton has made to sue federal agencies, from the EPA and Homeland Security to Health and Human Services. However, among the “highlights,” Paxton has:
Hard to believe he lost, considering that Paxton’s lawsuit included “evidence” from the debunked film “2,000 Mules.”
Somehow, through all this, Texas voters still put Paxton in office by a wide margin. That includes returning him to office in 2020 despite three felony indictments and a public investigation by the FBI. Paxton has the biggest selling point of any Republican candidate: He knows how to hate the right people. So don’t be surprised if being impeached is not his last act.
How can Democrats win the messaging war? It turns out there's actually a science to it, as strategic communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio tells us on this week's episode of "The Downballot." Shenker-Osorio explains how her research shows the importance of treating voters as protagonists; how Democrats can avoid ceding "freedom" to Republicans by emphasizing "freedoms," plural; and why it actually makes sense to call out "MAGA Republicans" (even though, yes, it's all Republicans).