By Brad Brooks and Daniel Trotta
LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) – Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton lashed out on Friday against his critics trying to impeach him, saying that removing him from office would be a gift for President Joe Biden and his Democratic agenda.
Paxton, a conservative firebrand and ally of former President Donald Trump, has been accused by fellow Republicans of abuse of office and faces a vote on 20 articles of impeachment in the Texas House on Saturday.
Staking out a position on the far right on divisive cultural issues, Paxton has sued the Biden administration nearly 50 times in an attempt to halt what he labeled “unlawful tyrannical policies” on issues including immigration, gun rights and business regulation.
On Thursday, the five-member Texas House General Investigating Committee voted unanimously to recommend that Paxton be impeached and removed from office for improperly aiding a wealthy political donor, conducting a sham investigation against whisteblowers in his office whom he fired, and covering up his wrongdoing in a separate federal securities fraud case against him, among other offenses.
Addressing the media but without taking questions on the eve of the vote, Paxton accused House members including the Republican majority of plotting an “illegal impeachment scheme” led by corrupt politicians loyal to House Speaker Dade Phelan.
Debate was due to start at 1 p.m. CDT (1800 GMT). If impeached, Paxton would be removed from office pending a trial in the Senate, where his wife, Angela Paxton, is a senator and where he said he believed he would get a fair trial. A two-thirds vote is needed to permanently expel him.
“I want to invite my fellow citizens and friends to peacefully come let their voices be heard at the Capitol tomorrow. Exercise your right to petition your government. Let’s restore the power of this great state to the people instead of to the politicians,” Paxton said.
With many of the accusations against him already aired, Paxton easily won reelection last year after fending off a Republican primary challenge from George P. Bush, a scion of two former presidents.
Paxton’s resiliency – and the ease with which he dispatched Bush in his 2022 primary contest – reflects a shift within the state Republican Party over the past decade from the business-friendly wing squarely into the social conservative camp.
(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas, and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California; editing by Donna Bryson and David Gregorio)