Texas AG Ken Paxton allegations come to a head at Capitol
AUSTIN, Texas - Years of allegations against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton came to a head at the State Capitol Wednesday, May 24, as Paxton remains under federal indictment.
A bipartisan House committee investigating the attorney general publicly discussed its findings so far in a rare and unexpected hearing.
"That's alarming to hear. It curls my mustache," said Republican State Rep. Andrew Murr, chair of the House General Investigating Committee.
The House General Investigating committee listened as a team of independent lawyers investigating Attorney General Ken Paxton detailed years of alleged bad behavior they say could amount to a host of crimes, like securities fraud, gifts to a public servant and abuse of official capacity.
When Murr asked one of the lawyers, "Do you feel that there’s a lot of evidence there to support those allegations?" the attorney responded, "I do. Yes, chairman, I do."
The probe stemmed from a whistleblower suit by staffers whom Paxton fired, and a proposed $3.3 million settlement of that suit that is now the subject of a federal indictment.
The staffers claim Paxton abused his authority to help his friend, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, who was in legal trouble. But after speaking with those whistleblowers, the lawyers also began looking at other things like alleged improper work on Paxton’s Austin Home, and staffers’ claims of retaliation by Paxton over an extramarital affair.
MORE KEN PAXTON COVERAGE:
- Paxton defends drinking accusations against Phelan, House investigators recount alleged misconduct by Paxton
- AG Paxton calls for Texas Speaker Dade Phelan to resign, accuses him of being drunk on House floor
- Texas AG Ken Paxton agrees to pay $3.3M lawsuit settlement with taxpayer money
"So somebody discloses to him ‘hey, you're busted on the affair, this looks bad’, so his response is to move them, give them more money, and give them less responsibility?" asked Democratic State Rep. Ann Johnson, vice chair of the committee.
One of the attorneys on the panel responded, "Yes."
Paxton was not at the hearing, nor has he testified before these attorneys, but in a statement Wednesday he said:
"The liberal leadership of the Texas House has routinely killed conservative legislation including important bills which would help secure our border and protect the integrity of our elections. They have demonstrated nothing but contempt for the traditional values of conservative Texans. It is not surprising that a committee appointed by liberal Speaker Dade Phelan would seek to disenfranchise Texas voters and sabotage my work as Attorney General. The false testimony of highly partisan Democrat lawyers with the goal of manipulating and misleading the public is reprehensible. Every allegation is easily disproved, and I look forward to continuing my fight for conservative Texas values."
While the committee took no immediate action Wednesday, experts say it could still happen.
"They could issue a censure with regard to the attorney general," said Dr. Eddy Carder, a constitutional law professor with Prairie View A&M University. "The other option that's available is the option of impeachment, and that's a much more complicated process."
If Paxton were impeached, he would be removed temporarily while the Senate would hold a trial, but it would require a two-thirds majority vote in the State to permanently remove him, something Dr. Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University, says is unlikely.
However, Smith says political fallout is likely.
"The political fallout is this: You can’t have an attorney general who's under so many charges that have been laid out by his own party be as effective as you want him to be," said Smith.
House Speaker Dade Phelan’s communications director released a statement late Wednesday, saying: "The Attorney General appears to have routinely abused his powers for personal gain and exhibited blatant disregard for the ethical and legal propriety expected of the state’s leading law enforcement officer."
At this point, the committee does not have any further hearings scheduled on this. Both Paxton and Paul continue to deny any wrongdoing.