Texas Senate overturns Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment by the state House

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was impeached by the state House in May, but yesterday the state Senate voted to acquit.



AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The Texas Senate found Ken Paxton not guilty in his impeachment trial, a vote that automatically reinstalled him as the state’s attorney general. The Texas Senate found Ken Paxton not guilty in his impeachment trial, a vote that automatically reinstalled him as the state’s attorney general. Paxton has been a major player in the efforts to reverse the results of 2020’s presidential election, and he is known for attacking Biden’s policies. Good morning.

SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So tell us why Paxton was facing an impeachment trial in the first place.

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Sure. Good morning.

SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So remind us why Paxton was facing an impeachment trial in the first place.

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Sure. Yesterday’s vote in Texas was the culmination to a four-month battle. In May, the Republican House began an investigation into allegations made by former Paxton employees that he had used his position to shield a political contributor from an FBI investigation. A bipartisan group of investigators concluded that there was enough evidence to prove Paxton’s bribery, obstruction of justice and corruption. House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton, and his position as Attorney General was suspended immediately. Paxton can only be convicted by the Texas Senate. This did not happen yesterday. The Senate rejected all 16 articles. Only two Republicans voted in favor of conviction this time. So this means Paxton is back as attorney general.

RASCOE: So he was impeached overwhelmingly by the Texas House but saved by the Senate. Like, what is that dynamic?

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Right. Some Republican Senators blamed House for allowing it to get this far. Some Republican senators said that there was not enough evidence against Paxton, and the House impeachment procedure was rushed. The House is dominated by Republicans, and its speaker is a Republican. But Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who presided over the Senate trial, scolded them for how they conducted the impeachment in that chamber.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAN PATRICK: In the House, the vote to send the articles of impeachment against the attorney general to the Senate happened in only a few days with virtually no time for 150 members to even study the articles. The speaker and his team rammed through the first impeachment of a statewide official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set in every other impeachment before.

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: And Paxton’s lawyers push this narrative that the people behind the impeachment efforts were Paxton’s political enemies, and they weren’t talking only about Democrats. The Republican state senators were under a lot pressure prior to this vote. Political activists coordinated a coordinated campaign to encourage people to contact the offices of lawmakers. The chairman of the Republican Party of Texas has promised to support the opponents of senators and members of the House who supported impeachment in the primary elections next year. Other Republican fundraising groups have said the same thing.

RASCOE: Wow. OK. What was that about?

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Well, Paxton has been in office since 2015. What was that about?

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Well, Paxton has been in office since 2015. He has used his position as Texas Attorney General to build a national reputation over three terms. He sued Obama and Biden over federal spending and immigration, as well as abortion. Paxton released a statement as soon as he was acquitted. He told President Biden that his policies would not be ignored. Paxton also supports Donald Trump. Texas, as you said, sued after the 2020 elections to have four state’s election results thrown out. They went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately rejected the lawsuit.

RASCOE: That’s Sergio Martinez-Beltran of the Texas Newsroom. Thank you so much for joining us.01001010MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: You’re welcome.01001010Copyright (c) 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.01001010NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text is not in its final version and could be revised or updated in the future. Accuracy and accessibility may vary. Audio recordings are the definitive record of NPR programming.