The Texas Senate acquitted state Attorney General Ken Paxton on 16 articles of impeachment Saturday after a two-week trial.
Paxton, a Republican and star of the conservatives legal movement, now returns to office after being suspended since May when the GOP-controlled House voted 121-23 to impeach him on 20 articles that include bribery and abuse of public trust. Most of the articles deal with Paxton using his office to benefit a wealthy donor, Nate Paul, prompting eight of the attorney general’s top deputies to report him to the FBI in 2020.
The Senate did not take up four of the articles. Three of those date back to Paxton’s pending 2015 felony securities fraud case, including lying to state investigators. The other is related to Paxton’s ethics filings in the impeachment trial.
In Texas, a public official is suspended from office if they are impeached by the House. A Senate vote to convict on any article of impeachment results in being permanently removed from office. Acquittal allows them to resume their duties.
A look at the 16 articles on which Paxton was acquitted and the four that the Senate set aside:
DISREGARD OF OFFICIAL DUTY
ARTICLE 1 - Protection of charitable organization
Paxton is accused of failing to act as a public protector of charitable organizations by directing his employees in the attorney general’s office to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the Roy F. & JoAnn Cole Mitte Foundation against entities controlled by Paul, harming the Austin charity in an effort to benefit the wealthy donor.
ARTICLE 2 - Abuse of the opinion process
Paxton is accused of misusing his official power to issue written legal opinions. He allegedly had employees prepare an opinion that protected some of Paul’s properties from being sold in foreclosure. Paxton concealed his actions by asking a Senate committee chairperson to seek that opinion. He’s also accused of directing employees to reverse their legal conclusion to help Paul.
ARTICLE 3 - Abuse of the open records process
Paxton is accused of misusing his official power by allegedly interfering with his office’s handling of a public records request dealing with the files of a criminal investigation into Paul.
ARTICLE 4 - Misuse of official information
Paxton is accused of misusing his power to administer public information law by improperly obtaining previously undisclosed information held by the attorney general’s office to benefit Paul.
DISREGARD OF OFFICIAL DUTY
ARTICLE 5 - Engagement of Cammack
Paxton is accused of misusing official powers by hiring attorney Brandon Cammack to investigate a baseless complaint made by Paul. That led to Cammack issuing more than 30 grand jury subpoenas in an effort to help Paul.
ARTICLE 6 - Termination of whistleblowers
Paxton is accused of violating the state’s whistleblower law by retaliating against employees who reported his alleged unlawful acts to law enforcement, terminating them without good cause or due process. He’s also accused of engaging in a public and private campaign to impugn those employees’ professional reputations or prejudice their future employment.
MISAPPLICATION OF PUBLIC RESOURCES
ARTICLE 7 - Whistleblower investigation and report
Paxton is accused of misusing public resources by directing employees to conduct a sham investigation into terminated employees’ whistleblower complaints and publish a report containing false or misleading statements in Paxton’s defense.
DISREGARD OF OFFICIAL DUTY
ARTICLE 8 - Settlement Agreement
Paxton is accused of misusing his official powers by concealing his wrongful acts in connection with the whistleblower’s complaints by entering into a settlement with the whistleblowers that provides for payment from public funds. The settlement halted the wrongful termination suit and delayed the discovery of facts and testimony at trial, to Paxton’s advantage. That allegedly prevented voters from making an informed decision about his reelection in 2022.
ARTICLE 9 - Paul’s employment of a woman with whom Paxton has acknowledged having an affair
It is alleged that Paxton benefited from Paul’s decision to hire the woman. In exchange, Paul allegedly received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the attorney general’s office.
ARTICLE 10 - Paul’s providing renovations to Paxton home
It is alleged that in exchange for providing the renovations, Paul received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the attorney general’s office.
ARTICLE 15 - FALSE STATEMENT IN OFFICIAL RECORDS
It is alleged that Paxton made or caused to be made multiple false or misleading statements in the lengthy written report issued by his office in response to whistleblower allegations.
ARTICLE 16 - CONSPIRACY AND ATTEMPTED CONSPIRACY
Paxton is accused of conspiring or attempting to conspire with others to commit acts described in one or more articles.
ARTICLE 17 - MISAPPROPRIATION OF PUBLIC RESOURCES
Paxton is accused of misusing his official powers by causing employees to perform services for his benefit and the benefit of others.
ARTICLE 18 - DERELICTION OF DUTY
Paxton is accused of violating the Texas Constitution, his oaths of office, statutes and public policy against public officials acting contrary to the public interest by engaging in acts described in one or more articles.
ARTICLE 19 - UNFITNESS FOR OFFICE
Paxton is accused of engaging in misconduct, private or public, of such character as to indicate his unfitness for office, as shown by the acts described in one or more articles.
ARTICLE 20 - ABUSE OF PUBLIC TRUST
Paxton is accused of using, misusing or failing to use official powers to subvert the lawful operation of the state government and obstruct the fair and impartial administration of justice, bringing the attorney general’s office into scandal and eroding public confidence in state government, as shown by the acts described in one or more articles.
The Senate did not take up these four articles during the impeachment trial:
OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
ARTICLE 11 - Abuse of judicial process
Paxton is accused of abusing the process to thwart justice in the securities fraud case against him. It is alleged that Paxton concealed facts from voters with protracted delay of that trial, preventing voters from making an informed decision about his election.
ARTICLE 12 - Abuse of judicial process
It is alleged that Paxton benefited from donor Jeff Blackard’s lawsuit that interfered with payment of the prosecutors in Paxton’s securities fraud case. That allegedly delayed the case, including discovery of facts and testimony at trial, and deprived voters of a chance to make an informed decision when voting for attorney general.
FALSE STATEMENTS IN OFFICIAL RECORDS
ARTICLE 13 - State Securities Board investigation
Paxton is accused of making false statements to the State Securities Board in connection with its investigation of his failure to register with the board as an investment adviser required by state law.
ARTICLE 14- Personal financial statements
Paxton is accused of failing to fully and accurately disclose financial interests in his financial statements filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.
The Associated Press