AUSTIN, Texas – Texas’ Republican-led Home of Representatives launched historic impeachment proceedings in opposition to Legal professional Common Ken Paxton on Saturday as Donald Trump defended the scandal-plagued GOP official from a vote that would result in his ouster.

The Home convened within the afternoon to debate whether or not to question and droop Paxton over allegations of bribery, abuse of public belief and that he’s unfit for workplace — simply a number of the accusations which have trailed Texas’ prime lawyer for many of his three phrases.

The listening to units up what may very well be a remarkably sudden downfall for one of many GOP’s most distinguished authorized combatants, who in 2020 requested the U.S. Supreme Court docket to overturn President Joe Biden’s electoral defeat of Trump. Solely two officers in Texas’ almost 200-year historical past have been impeached.

Paxton, 60, has decried what he known as “political theater” based mostly on “hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims,” and stated it is an try to disenfranchise voters who reelected him in November. It is unclear the place the lawyer normal was Saturday, however through the Home continuing he was sharing statements from supporters on Twitter.

“No one person should be above the law, least not the top law enforcement officer of the state of Texas,” Rep. David Spiller, a Republican member of the committee that investigated Paxton, stated in opening statements. Rep. Ann Johnson, a Democratic member, informed lawmakers that Texas’ “top cop is on the take.” Rep. Charlie Geren, a Republican committee member, stated with out elaborating that Paxton had known as lawmakers and threatened them with political “consequences.” Because the articles of impeachment have been laid out, a number of the lawmakers shook their heads. They’re anticipated to debate impeachment for 4 hours earlier than voting.

Paxton has been underneath FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his workplace to assist a donor and was individually indicted on securities fraud fees in 2015, although he has but to face trial. Till this week, his fellow Republicans had taken a muted stance on the allegations.

Lawmakers allied with Paxton tried to discredit the investigation by noting that employed investigators, not panel members, interviewed witnesses. Additionally they stated a number of of the investigators had voted in Democratic primaries, tainting the impeachment, and that they’d too little time to assessment proof.

“I perceive it could be political weaponization,” stated Rep. Tony Tinderholt, one of many Home’s most conservative members. Republican Rep. John Smithee in contrast the continuing to “a Saturday mob out for an afternoon lynching.”

Impeachment requires just a simple majority in the House. That means only a small fraction of its 85 Republicans would need to join 64 Democrats in voting against him.

If impeached, Paxton would be suspended pending a Senate trial, and it would fall to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to appoint an interim replacement. Final removal would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate, where Paxton’s wife’s, Angela, is a member.

Texas’ top elected Republicans had been notably quiet about Paxton this week. But on Saturday both Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz came to his defense, with the senator calling the impeachment process “a travesty” and saying the attorney general’s legal troubles should be left to the courts.

“Free Ken Paxton,” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social, warning that if House Republicans proceeded with the process, “I will fight you.”

Abbott, who lauded Paxton while swearing him in for a third term in January, has remained silent. The governor spoke at a Memorial Day service in the House chamber about three hours before the impeachment proceedings began. Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan also attended but the two appeared to exchange few words, and Abbott left without commenting to reporters.

In one sense, Paxton’s political peril arrived with dizzying speed: The House committee’s investigation came to light Tuesday, and by Thursday lawmakers issued 20 articles of impeachment.

But to Paxton’s detractors, the rebuke was years overdue.

In 2014, he admitted to violating Texas securities law, and a year later he was indicted on securities fraud charges in his hometown near Dallas, accused of defrauding investors in a tech startup. He pleaded not guilty to two felony counts carrying a potential sentence of five to 99 years.

He opened a legal defense fund and accepted $100,000 from an executive whose company was under investigation by Paxton’s office for Medicaid fraud. An additional $50,000 was donated by an Arizona retiree whose son Paxton later hired to a high-ranking job but was soon fired after displaying child pornography in a meeting. In 2020, Paxton intervened in a Colorado mountain community where a Texas donor and college classmate faced removal from his lakeside home under coronavirus orders.

But what ultimately unleased the impeachment push was Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.

In 2020, eight top aides told the FBI they were concerned Paxton was misusing his office to help Paul over the developer’s unproven claims that an elaborate conspiracy to steal $200 million of his properties was afoot. The FBI searched Paul’s home in 2019, but he has not been charged and denies wrongdoing. Paxton also told staff members he had an affair with a woman who, it later emerged, worked for Paul.

The impeachment accuses Paxton of attempting to interfere in foreclosure lawsuits and issuing legal opinions to benefit Paul. Its bribery charges allege that Paul employed the woman with whom Paxton had an affair in exchange for legal help and that he paid for expensive renovations to the attorney general’s home.

A senior lawyer for Paxton’s office, Chris Hilton, said Friday that the attorney general paid for all repairs and renovations.

Other charges, including lying to investigators, date back to Paxton’s still-pending securities fraud indictment.

Four of the aides who reported Paxton to the FBI later sued under Texas’ whistleblower law, and in February he agreed to settle the case for $3.3 million. The House committee said it was Paxton seeking legislative approval for the payout that sparked their probe.

“But for Paxton’s own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment,” the panel stated.