AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A timeline of events that led to the acquittal of three-term Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton during his impeachment trial in the state Senate. The trial started Sept. 5 and ended Sept. 16. The overwhelming impeachment vote in May by the GOP-controlled Texas House of Representatives suspended 60-year-old Paxton from office.
The acquittal allows him to resume his duties as attorney general.
Paxton takes office as attorney general after more than a decade in the Texas Legislature. He is indicted on felony securities charges by a grand jury in his hometown near Dallas, accused of duping investors in a tech startup. He pleads not guilty to two felony counts, but there has still been no trial. Paxton opens a legal defense fund and accepts $100,000 from an executive whose company was under investigation by his office for Medicaid fraud. An Arizona retiree donates $50,000 to the fund, and Paxton later hires the donor’s son for a high-ranking job that ends with his firing after the man showed child pornography in a meeting.
Several of Paxton’s top aides tell the FBI about concerns that the attorney general was misusing the powers of his office to help wealthy donor and Austin real estate developer Nate Paul with a troubled real estate empire. The FBI opens an investigation and searches Paul’s home. Paxton and his attorneys have denied wrongdoing. Paxton, who is married to a state senator and has gained a national profile as a crusader for conservative Christian legal causes, tells staff members that he had an affair with a woman who, it later emerged, worked for Paul. In a deposition, Paul says he hired the woman at Paxton’s recommendation. The eight aides who reported Paxton to the FBI are fired or quit, and four later sue under Texas’ whistleblower law.
The committee’s investigation accuses Paxton of committing multiple crimes in office, including felonies. The accusations cover myriad accusations related to his dealings with Paul, including alleged attempts to interfere in foreclosure lawsuits and improperly issuing legal opinions to benefit Paul, and firing, harassing and interfering with staff who reported what was going on. The bribery charges stem from Paul allegedly employing the woman with whom Paxton had an affair in exchange for legal help, and Paul allegedly paying for expensive renovations to one of Paxton’s homes. Paxton broadly denies any wrongdoing. The committee ended Wednesday’s hearing without acting on the findings and without saying whether a recommendation to impeach or censure Paxton was possible.
The committee recommends in a unanimous vote that the state’s top lawyer be impeached on 20 articles including bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust.
MAY 26, 2023
The House committee says it was Paxton’s own request for state funds to settle the whistleblower lawsuit that brought about the impeachment recommendation. The $3.3 million payout must be approved by the House and Republican Speaker Dade Phelan says taxpayers should not have to foot the bill. Paxton calls on his supporters to protest when the full House of Representatives takes up impeachment proceedings against him. He decries the proceedings as “political theater” that will “inflict lasting damage on the Texas House,” adding to his earlier claims that it’s an effort to disenfranchise the voters who returned him to office in November.
MAY 27, 2023
The 149-member Texas House of Representatives votes to impeach Paxton. In Texas, an impeached official is automatically suspended from office pending a trial in the Senate.
JUNE 21, 2023 Texas’ Republican-controlled Senate resolves to try Paxton on 16 of the 20 impeachment charges starting Sept. 5. The Senate declined to take up three articles of impeachment dealing with the securities fraud charges against Paxton and a fourth related to his ethics filings. The 31 senators include many of Paxton’s ideological allies and his wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, who is allowed to attend the trial but cannot participate or vote. Two other senators who attend have played a role in the allegations against Paxton. The Senate is composed of 12 Democrats and 19 Republicans. A two-thirds majority — or 21 senators — is required for conviction.
The Senate finishes deliberating and votes to acquit Paxton on 16 of 20 articles of impeachment. The other four charges were dismissed. The acquittal clears Paxton to return to office after a three-month suspension.