AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House of Representatives voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday, only the third time in state history that the Legislature has sought to remove a state official.
The vote to adopt the 20 articles of impeachment was 121-23, with three members absent, according to The Texas Tribune.
Paxton, 60, a third-term Republican who was re-elected last year, is accused of bribery, obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty and abuse of the public trust, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Impeachment required just a simple majority in the 149-member House, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
With the impeachment vote by the Texas House, Paxton was immediately barred from performing his official duties. The Texas Senate will now hold a trial to judge the allegations, according to the newspaper. It would take a two-thirds majority to remove him from office.
Before Saturday’s vote, only two Texas officials have ever been impeached: Gov. James Ferguson in 1917 and District Judge O.P. Carrillo in 1975, according to the American-Statesman.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will appoint an interim replacement.
In a statement after the House decision, Paxton said he looked forward to the trial in the Senate.
“I am beyond grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust,” Paxton said. “I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just.”
The Republican-led General Investigating Committee notified Paxton this week that it had been investigating him for months, The Washington Post reported. It unanimously recommended that the attorney general be impeached and removed from office.
“That’s a pretty comprehensive list of concerns that are alarming to hear,” the panel’s chairman, Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, told reporters. “It curls my mustache.”
Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said on Saturday that Paxton personally called lawmakers, “threatening them with political consequences in their next election” if they did not vote against impeachment.
Paxton was not invited to speak before the House. During a news conference on Friday, he called the impeachment vote “deceitful” and an “act of political retribution,” according to the American-Statesman.
Before the House began its debate on Saturday, former President Donald Trump defended Paxton on his social media platform, Truth Social, The Texas Tribune reported.
“The RINO Speaker of the House of Texas, Dade Phelan, who is barely a Republican at all and failed the test on voter integrity, wants to impeach one of the most hard-working and effective Attorney Generals in the United States, Ken Paxton, who just won re-election with a large number of American Patriots strongly voting for him,” Trump wrote.
Several hours earlier, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called the impeachment effort “a travesty,” the Tribune reported.
Paxton was previously indicted on charges of securities fraud on July 28. 2015, the Post reported. He was accused of selling shares of Servergy Inc. that raised $840,000 for him, and for not disclosing that he was receiving 100,000 shares of stock from the technology company in return, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Paxton has argued that the stock he received from the company’s CEO and founder was a gift, the Post reported.
He has yet to go to trial over the indictment.