Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a prominent law enforcement official, faces the possibility of removal from office following the commencement of his corruption trial on Tuesday. Paxton has been suspended from his position since May when the Republican-dominated Texas House of Representatives impeached him on 20 corruption charges. These charges include allegations of assisting a political donor and mistreating whistleblowers.
Now, Paxton’s fate lies with the state Senate, also controlled by Republicans, which will vote on whether to oust him from office. Paxton vehemently denies any wrongdoing and characterizes the impeachment as a politically motivated witch hunt, as reported by Reuters.
The trial, which is anticipated to last several weeks, could potentially highlight a division among Texas Republicans reminiscent of the national party’s schisms over former US President Donald Trump, who continues to lead in polling for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination despite facing four criminal prosecutions.
Despite Paxton’s legal troubles dating back to 2015, he has managed to secure re-election as attorney general three times. In this role, he has championed powerful oil and gas interests, advocated for restrictions on abortion and transgender rights, and led Texas Republicans in opposing policies put forth by Democratic President Barack Obama. Additionally, he filed a lawsuit in an attempt to overturn Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election.
The impeachment of Paxton was triggered by his request for House lawmakers to approve a $3.3 million settlement he negotiated with four former staff members who accused him of abusing his office and subsequently terminated their employment. Lawmakers did not respond to this request.
To remove Paxton from office permanently, a two-thirds majority vote is required in the 31-member Senate. All 12 Democrats are expected to vote against him, which means that nine Republicans would need to join them to reach the necessary majority.
The political pressure surrounding this case is evident, with Jonathan Stickland, who leads a political action committee backed by three billionaire oil tycoons, vowing to support primary opponents against Republicans who oppose Paxton. This pressure may sway some senators’ decisions.
However, there is uncertainty surrounding the outcome. While some believe that Paxton’s political donors and pressure tactics could help him secure an acquittal, others point to the decisive bipartisan vote in the House as a sign that his hold on the position of Texas Attorney General may be in jeopardy.