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Texas House holds vote on impeachment of state AG Ken Paxton

ERIC DEGGANS, HOST:

The Texas House of Representatives is debating whether to impeach State Attorney General Ken Paxton. The Republican has been accused of illegal acts, most of them related to his relationship with a political donor who Paxton tried to shield from an FBI investigation. The Texas Newsroom's Sergio Martinez Beltran is at the capitol in Austin, and he joins us live. Hi, Sergio. Now, we know...

SERGIO MARTINEZ BELTRAN, BYLINE: Hi.

DEGGANS: We know the proceedings are underway. And thank you so much for ducking out to talk with us. But what have you been hearing, and which way does it seem like the vote might be leaning?

MARTINEZ BELTRAN: So we heard from the members of the general investigating committee. That's the bipartisan panel that investigated Paxton's misdeeds and drafted the articles of impeachment. Those members have gone into detail on how Paxton violated the law and his oath of office. Now, listen, some of these members are from Paxton's party, the GOP. Here's state representative David Spiller. He's a Republican who serves on the House investigating committee. He praised Paxton's, quote, "brilliant legal mind." But he says even Paxton, the top cop of Texas, is not above the law.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID SPILLER: He put the interests of himself above the laws of the state of Texas. He put the interests of himself over the established laws, policies and procedures of the office of the Attorney General. He put the interests of himself over his staff, who tried to advise him on multiple occasions that he was about to violate the law.

MARTINEZ BELTRAN: Other Republican members have also said the evidence uncovered by this House committee is enough to impeach.

DEGGANS: So we know Paxton has denied any wrongdoing. Can you give us a few more details of the allegations against him?

MARTINEZ BELTRAN: Sure. Paxton has called the allegations politically motivated. He's also called the investigation illegal. Most of the allegations listed on the articles of impeachment are related to an Austin real estate investor named Nate Paul. Paul is one of Paxton's political donors, and he was under a federal investigation when he asked Paxton to intervene, and Paxton did, despite his staff telling not to.

DEGGANS: Now, based on your reporting, there seems to be enough Republicans in the Texas House to impeach him. But what are the national Republicans saying?

MARTINEZ BELTRAN: Right. So former President Trump came out with a statement minutes before the proceedings started and called Paxton a friend of his, and he vowed to fight any Republicans who support impeaching Paxton. Now, on the local level, Governor Greg Abbott has been silent so far. In fact, he had a Memorial Day event this morning here in the capitol but didn't talk to reporters. So this is a very interesting intraparty fight of the GOP in the Texas House, where, you know, not everyone is in lockstep with national Republican leaders.

DEGGANS: Wow. It seems like for Texas, this is pretty historic, right?

MARTINEZ BELTRAN: Indeed. Only two public officials have been impeached in the history of Texas. So if Paxton were to be impeached, he would join that small class. But also, this is historic, Eric, because of Paxton himself. He is beloved by Republican voters in Texas. He's been one of the principal faces of the movement to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. So it's a big day here.

DEGGANS: Wow. So if Paxton is actually impeached by the House today, what's going to happen next?

MARTINEZ BELTRAN: So if House members move to impeach, Paxton will automatically and immediately be temporarily suspended from his role as attorney general and his job status would remain as such pending a trial in the Texas Senate. In that chamber, members would serve as jurors and would have to vote on whether to convict Paxton. And one interesting tidbit is that Paxton's wife, Senator Angela Paxton, is one of the senators who would have to vote on the fate of the attorney general.

DEGGANS: Wow. Well, thank you. That's Sergio Martinez Beltran of the Texas Newsroom. Thank you so much for that update.

MARTINEZ BELTRAN: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán | The Texas Newsroom