Texas's top law-enforcement official, Attorney General Ken Paxton, could lose his position after being suspended and impeached on corruption charges led by his fellow Republicans, Reuters reports. Paxton has been suspended since May after the Republican-led Texas House of Representatives voted to impeach him on 20 corruption charges that include aiding a donor and persecuting whistleblowers. His fate now rests with the state Senate, also controlled by Republicans, which will vote on whether to remove him. Paxton, who is under investigation by the FBI, has denied any wrongdoing and says the impeachment drive is a political witch hunt. The trial, likely to last several weeks, could expose a split among the state's Republicans that echoes the national party's divisions over former President Trump, who leads polling for his party's 2024 presidential nomination despite four criminal prosecutions.
Paxton's impeachment was triggered by his request that House lawmakers approve a $3.3 million settlement he reached with four former staff members who accused him of abuse of office and were subsequently fired. The Texas House voted 121-23 to impeach him on 20 articles that accuse him of improperly aiding a wealthy political donor, conducting a sham investigation against the whistleblowers in his office, and covering up wrongdoing in a separate federal securities fraud case, among other offenses. All 12 Democrats are expected to vote against him, meaning nine Republicans would need to oppose him to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to remove him from office. Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, pointed to the lopsided House vote as a sign that Paxton might not hold on to his job. "There is great security in crowds. The crowd of Republicans that voted to impeach him in the House and those that will likely vote against him in the Senate are going to be harder to punish," Jillson said. Former Republican Texas Governor and two-time presidential candidate Rick Perry wrote in the Wall Street Journal that senators have a duty to set aside politics and look hard at all the evidence.