Influential Texas attorney-general faces potential suspension

Texas Attorney-General Ken Paxton (right) is alleged to have pressured his staff to protect a friend and donor from prosecution over corruption charges. – AFP pic, May 27, 2023.

TEXAS Attorney-General Ken Paxton, who has been a legal thorn in the side of US President Joe Biden, faces removal from office in a state Congress vote today over years of official complaints about corruption.

On Thursday, a congressional investigative committee unanimously adopted 20 articles of impeachment against the attorney-general for corruption, misuse of public funds, false statements and obstruction of justice.

The indictment alleges that Paxton pressured his staff to protect a friend and donor from prosecution.

In exchange, the donor gave a job to a woman with whom the Republican had an extramarital affair and financed work on his house, the document asserts.

The elected members of the Republican-led state House are set to vote on the charges after four hours of debate.

If passed by a simple majority, Paxton will be suspended from office while the Texas Senate conducts a trial. If two-thirds of senators (who include his wife) agree to impeach him, he would be permanently removed from office.

The 60-year-old ultraconservative, who is close to former president Donald Trump, is a divisive figure in his own party, and the outcome of the proceedings is highly uncertain.

Elected in 2014 to head the Texas judiciary, he was indicted for financial fraud in 2015, and his trial is pending. This has not impeded him from being re-elected in 2018, and again in 2022.

Paxton’s office has sued the administration of President Joe Biden nearly 50 times, seeking to turn back policies on migration, taxation and the environment, Paxton told the media yesterday.

Paxton decried the impeachment drive as “illegal”, “shameful”, and “unjust”, and called on his supporters to rally on his behalf in front of the state Capitol during the vote today. 

“The House is poised to do exactly what Joe Biden has been hoping to accomplish since his first day in office: sabotage… my work as attorney-general,” Paxton added.

In 2020, members of his team had warned of his abuse of power, and they were fired. These “whistle-blowers” later filed a wrongful dismissal claim.

Earlier this year, Paxton reached an agreement to end their lawsuits in exchange for US$3.3 million (RM15.2 million). He had asked Texas to foot the bill, which prompted the congressional committee investigation and could precipitate his downfall. – AFP, May 27, 2023.

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