Jun 20, 2023 - Politics

Paxton impeachment trial rife with possible conflicts of interest

Ken Paxton, wearing a blue suit with a light blue tie, standing in front of a building with several Greek columns

It's not clear how fair the Texas Senate can be when it comes to Ken Paxton. Photo: Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has promised that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will be treated fairly in his upcoming impeachment trial — which Patrick will oversee — but the state Senate, where the trial will be held, has become a tangled web of potential conflicts of interest.

The latest: The Senate convened this week to discuss the rules for the trial, during which senators will determine whether Paxton is permanently removed from office.

Why it matters: Paxton owes $125,000 in outstanding campaign loans to Patrick, according to the Houston Chronicle, and at least three senators could have conflicts of interest.

Flashback: The GOP-dominated Texas House voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton last month, a historic decision that immediately removed him from office.

Context: There are 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats in the Senate. At least two-thirds of voting senators would need to convict to remove Paxton.

What's happening: The attorney general's wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, a Collin County Republican who chairs the Republican caucus, released a statement Monday saying, "I will carry out my duties," but she hasn't commented on whether she will recuse herself.

  • Angela Paxton also owes $600,000 to her husband’s campaign, per the Chronicle.
  • Ken Paxton is accused of recruiting Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Mineola Republican, to unwittingly request a legal opinion from the AG's office that would benefit Paxton's friend and political donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor.
  • The articles of impeachment also allege that Paxton benefited when Paul employed a woman with whom Paxton was having an affair. That woman is a former Senate aide — entangling yet another, unnamed, senator, per the Texas Tribune.

State of play: Most senators have refrained from commenting publicly on the allegations against Paxton. Patrick has compared himself to a judge in a traditional courtroom, telling WFAA, "We will all be responsible as any juror would be."

What they're saying: Jeremi Suri, a professor of public affairs and history at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Chronicle that Paxton owing Patrick money "is a conflict, and it would not be acceptable in a normal judicial proceeding, but an impeachment is abnormal.”

The other side: Paxton has denied all wrongdoing, though earlier this year he agreed to a $3.3 million settlement with four whistleblowers, former lieutenants in his office.

Between the lines: A new Texas Politics Project Poll found that 50% of Texans believe Paxton's impeachment was justified, while 17% said it wasn't. The rest said they don't have an opinion.

What we're watching: The impeachment trial is expected to start in August.


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