AUSTIN — In a move that saw the Texas House voting decisively for the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, he has been effectively suspended from his duties. Both former President Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz publicized their support for Paxton prior to this development.
Whether their endorsements will influence the Republican Senators, who are among the decision-makers in Paxton’s potential conviction and removal, remains uncertain.
Dr. Joshua Blank, the UT Austin’s Texas Politics Project’s research director, reflected this uncertainty to CBS News Texas, stating, “The senators will eventually confront the evidence presented, but they will also have to weigh in the popularity of the ex-president, a well-respected figure among Texas Republicans, who backed Paxton.”
Paxton, in response, expressed confidence in getting a fair trial in the Senate, branding the House impeachment as “a politically charged spectacle.”
Paxton stands accused by the House General Investigative Committee of exploiting his position for personal gain and for the benefit of one of his campaign donors. The impeachment encompasses 20 charges, including obstruction of justice, abuse of public trust, and constitutional bribery.
Despite Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s declaration to oversee Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Senate, he has opted not to cast a vote. Blank notes the peculiar nature of Trump’s endorsement of Paxton given his close ties with Patrick. He commented, “Considering the Lieutenant Governor’s close relationship with the former president, it’s hard to envisage Trump endorsing Paxton without Patrick’s knowledge or approval.”
A key question that remains unanswered is whether Paxton’s wife, Senator Angela Paxton, will recuse herself from the trial. Attempts to reach her Senate office have so far been unsuccessful.
In the meantime, Trump called out Governor Greg Abbott for his silence on the Paxton issue. Blank remarked that this avoidance wasn’t surprising as most Republicans are hesitant to engage with the issue at present.
However, the Republican House members representing Collin County, Paxton’s home base, took the issue head-on and voted in favor of impeachment.
In a shared statement, Republican Reps. Jeff Leach of Allen, Matt Shaheen of Plano, Frederick Frazier of McKinney, Justin Holland of Heath, and Candy Noble of Murphy described the vote as “a challenging decision”. They acknowledged the sufficient evidence supporting Paxton’s impeachment and subsequent trial in the Senate.
After the vote, Rep. Holland emphasized to CBS News Texas that the State of Texas’s top law enforcement official must maintain integrity, adding, “We can do better.”
In regard to Paxton’s reputation, Blank opined that it’s too early to determine the impact. He hypothesized, “If Paxton’s image has indeed been tarnished among the core of conservative Republican voters, we might see his supporters grow silent sooner than expected.”
Looking ahead, the next steps will involve setting a date for Paxton’s Senate trial, where he will be able to defend himself against the impeachment charges.