Common sense suggested Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s career was poised to come to an ignominious end. The Republican had already been impeached by the GOP-led state House, and given the weight of the evidence, it was easy to imagine the GOP-led state Senate convicting him and throwing Paxton out of office altogether.
That’s not what happened. NBC News reported:
Impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted on 16 impeachment articles on Saturday, thwarting an effort to remove him from office over allegations of corruption. ... While two Republican senators broke with their party to vote for conviction on some articles of impeachment, the vast majority of Paxton’s party voted to acquit him following a two-week trial and a day of deliberations behind closed doors. Four impeachment articles that had been put on hold during the trial were dismissed immediately after the acquittal vote.
Writing for MSNBC, journalist Andrea Grimes argued soon after the verdict was announced that Republican state senators “put Ken Paxton above the law,” and that assessment is very easy to believe.
In case anyone needs a refresher, let’s revisit our earlier coverage and review how we arrived at this point.
By any measure, Texas’ Republican attorney general is among the most scandal-plagued officials currently serving in elected office anywhere in the country. Paxton was, for example, indicted over alleged securities fraud. He’s also facing a state bar investigation over his ridiculous efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. There’s also ample evidence that he weaponized his office in pursuit of political goals.
But what’s proven to be his biggest problem is the fact that several of his top aides accused Paxton of brazen corruption, which is currently the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation. The matter was also the subject of a state House investigation, which in May concluded that the state attorney general repeatedly broke the law by, among other things, abusing his office to hide an extramarital affair, doing special favors for a donor, and retaliating against perceived foes.
The allegations were so serious that the Republican majority in the Texas House felt compelled to impeach Paxton on a 121-23 vote in May. Even the state attorney general’s most ardent backers struggled to come up with any kind of credible defense for his alleged misconduct.
The revelations continued to unfold, even after his impeachment. Last month, for example, The Texas Tribune reported that state House investigators also accused Paxton of engaging in “a complex cover-up to hide his relationship with real estate investor Nate Paul as senior aides grew increasingly concerned about Paxton’s willingness to use his office to benefit Paul.”
The article added that the subterfuge allegedly included Paxton and Paul “creating an Uber account under an alias so they could meet each other and so the attorney general could visit the woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.”
In the state Senate, none of this seemed to matter. Facing intense partisan pressure, GOP members put the evidence aside and acquitted the defendant. What’s more, a “civil war“ of sorts is apparently underway in Austin, with state Senate Republicans lashing out at state House Republicans, with Paxton, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Donald Trump condemning state House Speaker Dade Phelan for having the audacity to even try to hold the attorney general accountable.
While those political embers are likely to keep burning for a while, Paxton can now return to work. That said, if he’s feeling confident about his future, the state AG probably isn’t paying close enough attention.
As the Associated Press summarized, Paxton “still faces serious risk on three fronts: an ongoing federal investigation into the same allegations that led to his impeachment; a disciplinary proceeding over his effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election; and felony securities fraud charges dating to 2015.”
Or put another way, the Republican attorney general, with the help of his partisan allies, has cleared one hurdle, but there are several more still in his way.
This post updates our related earlier coverage.