He allegedly defrauded investors in a tech startup company called Server Inc. He has thus far been able to delay the start of his trial. But, those criminal charges were not the reason Paxton had 16 articles of impeachment filed against him by the Texas House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans.
They were sparked by a letter sent by Paxton’s former first assistant Jeffrey Mateer and other high-ranking members of his staff alleging that he had violated both federal and state law relating to abuse of office, improper influence, bribery and other charges.
More specifically, he was accused of launching an investigation into the federal agents who had raided the home and business of Nate Paul, a friend and campaign donor to Paxton.
Paxton fired his top assistants, and they responded with a lawsuit. In February they agreed to a $3.3 million settlement, which Paxton then asked the state Legislature to cover for him.
That request led to a secret investigation by the House that uncovered more shady dealings between not only Paxton and Paul, but also the woman employed by Paul who allegedly had an affair with Paxton.
House investigators accused Paxton of abuse of official capacity for allegedly ordering state employees to conduct work that benefitted Paul; misuse of public information for allegedly giving him an internal FBI file on their investigation; and misapplication of fiduciary property for allegedly hiring an outside lawyer to work for Paul within the AG’s Office.
Members of the AG staff allegedly wrote a legal opinion intended to help Paul avoid the foreclosure sale of businesses he owned. The outside attorney issued more than 30 grand jury subpoenas investigating false claims made by Paul.
For his part, along with contributing to Paxton’s campaign, Paul also helped to fund the remodeling of his Austin home.
Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives looked at the evidence and joined with Democrats in voting 121-23 for Paxton’s impeachment. Republicans in the state Senate choose to look away.
Instead of addressing the allegations head on, they deflected. This wasn’t really about Paxton, they insisted. This was about a rebellious House trying to assert its power. That’s what we should be focusing on.
Paxton will soon face a federal grand jury that will likely be less concerned with the political consequences of its decision than the Texas Senate was.
The real issue is not him, it’s a Republican Party that now reflexively chooses to look away anytime one of its leaders is accused of wrongdoing. Paxton undoubtedly benefited from his relationship to a former president who has been charged with 91 state and federal crimes in four separate indictments, and has gained in popularity with Republican voters after every new criminal charge.
Don't ask his supporters about the details of any of those cases. They don’t know or care. When everything boils down to us vs. them, none of the details matter.
Trump has taken the moral compass that Republicans once relied on and smashed it beneath his heel.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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