Texas’ Ken Paxton impeachment trial to begin no later than August 28

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A landmark impeachment trial in Texas to determine whether Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton should be permanently removed from office will begin no later than August in the state Senate, where the jury that would determine his future may include his wife, Senator Angela Paxton.

Setting the date was one of the last orders of business lawmakers taken Monday during a slow end to this year’s legislative session in Texas, where impeachment has exposed rifts in the biggest red state of America beyond whether Republicans will oust one of the GOP’s conservative legal stars.

It’s dragging Republicans — who for years have pushed fast-moving Texas farther to the right — into a summer of unfinished business and soured feelings that risk spilling over into the 2024 election.

As time ran out for lawmakers on Memorial Day, expectations mounted that Republican Gov. Greg Abbott would quickly call a special session and order them back to work.

“I won’t pack your bags just yet,” Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan told lawmakers before adjourning the session.

At the center of the dispute is Paxton, whom the GOP-controlled House overwhelmingly impeached over the weekend on corruption and abuse of power charges after nearly a decade of scandals and criminal charges that sued the best attorney in the state. He is suspended from duty pending trial in the state Senate, which has set a start date of no later than August 28.

Highlighting how Paxton’s impeachment shook the Texas Capitol, the session ended with a dozen House lawmakers marching through the building and delivering the articles of impeachment to the Senate, where 31 senators could serve as jurors.

In a complicated twist, one of them is Paxton’s wife, Republican Senator Angela Paxton, who has not spoken publicly since the impeachment or said whether she would recuse herself from the proceedings. She declined to comment on Monday when approached by The Associated Press outside the Senate chamber.

The chairman of the House inquiry, Republican State Rep. Andrew Murr, also declined to comment on whether it would be appropriate for Sen. Paxton to participate.

“We will handle this process with the weight and respect it deserves and requires,” Murr said.

The impeachment marked a dramatic finale to the 140-day legislative session in Texas, where Republicans began the year with large GOP majorities after a dominant midterm election, a historic $33 billion surplus and a governor considered a potential presidential candidate of 2024.

But instead of a soft victory lap this spring, Republicans spent months battling it out over promises to cut property taxes and provide public school students with vouchers, and ultimately they only delivered. neither before the time runs out.

Both were priorities for Abbott, who was silent at the end of the session. He could also appoint an acting attorney general, but has made no public comment on Paxton since impeachment proceedings began last week.

Among those who have rushed to Paxton’s defense are hard-right GOP activists and former President Donald Trump, the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, who over the weekend has posted on his social media platform that the governor was “MISSING IN ACTION!” ”

In a state where Republicans have controlled every lever of power for decades — and have used that dominance to put Texas ahead nationally on controversial moves to restrict abortion and immigration — the failure of several promises in the State Capitol pointed out how they don’t always move at a run.

“There are definitely battle lines within the Republican Party,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “I don’t think they are ideological. I think you might read there that the House is tired of being pressured by far-right Republicans and this is their way of putting up some barriers.

Divisions are nothing new in Texas and, more broadly, Republicans are successfully pushing through a series of measures they have touted as victories for conservatives, including banning gender-affirming care and banning offices. of diversity, equity and inclusion in universities across the state.

They also subjected Harris County, the third-largest Democratic-controlled county in the nation, to new laws that forced them to fire their election administrator and cleared the way for state officials to take more control. their elections.

Paxton is only the third serving official in Texas’ nearly 200-year history to be impeached. He called the House investigation that led to his impeachment “corrupt” and largely denied wrongdoing. The series of charges against him include a securities fraud indictment and allegations that he abused his office to try to thwart an FBI investigation into one of his donors.

“What happened this week is not a source of pride for me,” Phelan told the chamber. “It’s not something I was proud of. But it was necessary. It was right.”

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