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Troubles mount for Texas’ Paxton as his impeachment trial begins

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was impeached in May. As his impeachment trial begins, revelations from the last few months haven't done him any favors.

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It’s been nearly four months since Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment, and as NBC News reported, the next big step in the process is poised to get underway in Austin.

The Texas Senate will convene as a high court Tuesday to consider the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Republican firebrand accused by his own party of taking bribes and abusing his office.

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.

In the short term, this meant that Paxton had to temporarily leave the office to which he was elected. But it also meant that the GOP lawyer, who has denied wrongdoing, had time to start preparing for his impeachment trial.

As is the case in Congress, we’re not talking about a literal trial in a judicial courtroom. Rather, there will be impeachment proceedings in the state Senate, with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presiding over the process, effectively serving as the judge in the case.

This is the same Republican lieutenant governor who recently received $3 million in campaign support from a group supporting Paxton — despite the fact that Patrick isn’t up for re-election until 2026, and Patrick hasn’t officially said whether he’s running for another term or not.

Indeed, there’s been plenty of news surrounding Paxton’s case since his impeachment in May, and none of it has been positive for the state A.G. Last month, for example, The Texas Tribune reported:

In new allegations revealed Wednesday, Texas House investigators accused suspended Attorney General Ken 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 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.

The Associated Press added in a report published last week that Paxton, according to his former employees, reveled in all kinds of “perks” while in office, including “unexplained Caribbean and European trips that cost taxpayers more than $90,000.”

As today’s impeachment proceedings in the Texas Senate get underway, it might be tempting to think that the odds lean in the state attorney general’s favor. After all, 19 of the chamber’s 31 members are Republicans. But let’s not forget that the GOP advantage in the state House is nearly as big, and those Republican legislators voted overwhelmingly to hold Paxton accountable.

Watch this space.