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The Perils of Paxton
The impeachment of Ken Paxton ought to have begun in 2020 when he filed frivolous lawsuits trying to overturn results of the presidential election. The Texas Attorney General had not the slightest evidence to justify the legal claims of voter fraud in other states, and he almost certainly knew any appellate court would immediately rule he had no standing to sue and the cases would be dismissed.
Which is exactly what happened.
His real goal was to curry favor with Donald Trump and position himself for a cabinet slot as U.S. Attorney General, if the failed Republican might prevail in his spurious charges the election was stolen. It wasn’t, and dozens of courts, including those presided over by Trump appointees, denied claims like Paxton’s. Not a single jurisdiction backed the nonsensical allegations. The newly-elected Texas legislature had plenty of reason to go after Paxton as a result of that abuse of office. His job description does not include messing in the elections of other states.
I don’t think very many people pointed out the irony of Paxton’s recent tweets when he suggested the Texas House impeachment proceedings were overturning the will of the voters. Teddy Cruz, who somehow sits in the US Senate, also made a similar claim as did Trump. Cruz wanted an investigation and a delay in certification of the 2020 election, and Trump, well, everybody knows his political pathology.
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But, hey, Texas lawmakers had already ignored the state and federal indictments against Paxton for securities fraud and his continued deceitful attempts to delay his trials, which were designed to keep facts and evidence from the public. The less voters knew, the better his chances, and the information in the charges was quite damning. Paxton has been charged with soliciting investors without a license, failing to tell them he got a commission, and lying about the technology he was promoting. No biggie, eh? It was just $840,000 of other peoples’ hard-earned money.
An abundance of the detailed behavior of Paxton outlined in the twenty articles of impeachment appears to also incriminate him for using his office to perform special favors for a real estate investor named Nate Paul. The malfeasance can only be described as extraordinary and includes directing his employees to reverse a legal conclusion that prevented impending foreclosures of Paul’s properties and businesses, which was covered up by using a “straw requestor” to seek an AG opinion that, predictably, became favorable for Paul. Paxton had his office also hire an outside attorney, who issued 30 grand jury subpoenas to examine what House investigators described as a “baseless complaint,” but would, yep, benefit Paul’s businesses. Paxton then used his office to improperly obtain access to information not publicly disclosed that he provided to Paul, who benefitted from what he learned.
House investigators suggest the Texas AG also got a few favors in return from Paul. The realtor is said to have paid for extensive remodels of Paxton’s home, and he reportedly hired the attorney general’s mistress. According to testimony on the House floor, the woman was given a job in Austin with Paul’s real estate development firm so Paxton would not have to drive to San Antonio to be with her. Kind of inconvenient, don’t you think? When seven members of his staff noticed the use of his office to provide favors to Paul, they filed a whistleblower complaint, which led to dismissals and resignations and a public campaign by Paxton to “impugn their reputations,” according to the Articles of Impeachment. The firings occurred after Paxton ordered a “sham investigation” into their complaints.
The AG’s employees filed a wrongful termination suit, and, eventually, Paxton agreed to a $3.3 million dollar settlement just prior to his reelection campaign, once more exhibiting a strategy to keep damning information about the AG from the voting public by avoiding trial, and it worked. It also got the attention of the House General Investigating Committee and the House Speaker, Dade Phelan, a Republican, because Paxton said he would pay the settlement with taxpayer money, which prompted the investigation. That also caused Paxton to circulate a video he claimed showed a drunk house speaker, and that he should resign. Not such a smart move.
A fella could go on and on about Paxton’s lies and hypocrisies, but a fella won’t. My interest lies now in the death dance the Texas Senate must perform for the impeachment trial. The Lt. Gov., Dan Patrick, who is involved in Trump’s campaign, will conduct the proceeding, and Trump loves Paxton because he fought for the election’s overthrow. But Patrick wants to be “King of Texas” someday, and he has to be careful some of Paxton’s shit doesn’t splatter on Danny boy’s shiny shoes.
The trial must occur before August 28, and the Senate will convene prior to that date to determine rules and procedures. If Patrick doesn’t try to constrain the hearing, evidence will be introduced that ought to make voting against impeachment look as immoral as Donald Trump’s marriage vows. Evidence to back the allegations in the articles of impeachment ought to end Paxton’s political career. But Patrick can get rules introduced that lead to nothing more than a floor discussion, which will likely end up with Republicans talking about witch hunts and Democrats accusing, truthfully, I might add, the conservatives of covering for Paxton. The result would be little more than back and forth oratory that ends with the GOP majority failing to impeach.
And think of the weirdness of his wife, Angela Paxton, who is a Republican Senator, sitting silently in the chamber listening to tales of her husband getting his mistress a job with Nate Paul’s company so he wouldn’t have to make the clandestine run to San Antonio. Will she be sitting there thinking about the nights he came home late with taco breath and lipstick on his collar? Neither she, nor Patrick, has indicated whether she will recuse herself from any vote to impeach, but her solitary vote could make the difference in a closely divided chamber. Maybe she will finally get her revenge. Patrick has said nothing outside of confirming a trial for the Senate.
Governor Greg Abbott is silent, too. He did appoint a temporary AG, a close associate of Paxton’s who helped him file the frivolous lawsuits on the election, which means the idiocy of the office will be sustaining. But Abbott has to figure out what to do about this and how to avoid harm to himself and his fellow MAGATs. If Paxton’s dirty drawers really do get hung out on a public line to dry, Abbott will have a hard time, politically, of supporting the level of corruption he has brought to the office. But if he completely turns his back, the Texas GOP base might not love their Gregie as much as they did last election. I suspect, in his usual courageous fashion, he will watch it all unfold, keep his finger in the wind, and say nothing until he feels safe from harm.
But Texas Republicans have a problem, and it is not going away. Paxton’s behavior can do real harm to the party, and a weakened Texas GOP has dark implications for their national party’s hopes of reclaiming the White House. They have no chance without carrying Texas, and Ken Paxton is about to make that a hell of a lot more unlikely than it was before he was impeached.