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The End Is Near for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

August 17, 2023
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The highest-profile impeachment trial of a statewide official since that of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009 will kick off Sept. 5. That’s when the Texas Senate will try Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom the state House voted 121-23 to impeach in May. More than 70% of GOP representatives voted to impeach their fellow Republican, including all five GOP members from his home county.

Many of the impeachment charges involve Mr. Paxton’s relationship with real-estate operator Nate Paul. He gave Mr. Paxton’s mistress a job after she was fired by her boss, a colleague of Mr. Paxton’s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, and allegedly renovated Mr. Paxton’s Austin home at no cost. In return, Mr. Paxton’s office allegedly gave Mr. Paul “favorable legal assistance” to help keep the developer’s company afloat.

Messrs. Paxton and Paul deny all wrongdoing. Mr. Paxton showed his good character by using taxpayer dollars to pay for an outside law firm to prepare a report disputing the validity of the charges.

The impeachment itself is void, his attorneys argue, because of a statute that bars impeachment for conduct occurring “before the officer’s most recent election, and those allegations were public before voters cast their ballots.” Most of the acts for which the House impeached Mr. Paxton occurred before his 2022 re-election. His people contend they were well known.

But the Texas Supreme Court has held in three cases, including Matter of Carillo (1976), that this so-called forgiveness doctrine doesn’t apply when a “proceeding for removal is authorized by the [Texas] Constitution.” It is so authorized for several top officers, including the attorney general.

Mr. Paxton’s forgiveness-doctrine defense is factually wrong as well. While some of this sprawling scandal was public before the election, lots of new allegations have turned up since then. In June a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Paul on eight counts of making false statements to banks—the shenanigans for which Mr. Paxton allegedly provided “favorable legal assistance” to erase Mr. Paul’s financial problems.

Moreover, one of the House’s most explosive allegations was unknown prior to the 2022 election. Allegedly, Mr. Paxton violated the laws governing prosecutor appointments in 2020 by hiring a junior lawyer with no prosecutorial experience, who then issued 39 grand-jury subpoenas to Mr. Paul’s creditors and critics, including law enforcement and prosecutors investigating the developer. Then Mr. Paxton allegedly lied about it. 

When asked in a 2021 Senate committee hearing about the appointment, Mr. Paxton’s deputy said the local district attorney in Mr. Paul’s case asked for help in investigating the developer’s claims that he was victimized by “doctored” search warrants. But the then-district attorney and one of her top aides say they didn’t believe there was an issue with the subpoenas and Mr. Paxton hired the lawyer on his own. Mr. Paxton’s deputy says he’s seen documents from the district attorney’s office that “prove the fact” that it made the junior lawyer a special prosecutor, but has yet to produce them. 

We’ve also learned more about the Paxton-Paul relationship. On Wednesday the House alleged that Mr. Paul set up an Uber account under an alias that Mr. Paxton then used to visit the apartment complex where his mistress lived. In a June briefing, Tony Buzbee, Mr. Paxton’s lead attorney, tried proving Mr. Paxton paid for his home renovations. But he wired $121,617 to an entity named Cupertino Builders the day after whistleblowers in his office met with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which by then had told the Attorney General Office’s human-resources department about it. This payment was also made months after the work was done: How many builders wait that long to bill a job? Cupertino Builders didn’t even exist when Mr. Paxton wired it money: It filed organization papers three weeks later with state officials. Its manager, Mr. Paul’s buddy, has served time for fraud.

The highest-profile impeachment trial of a statewide official since that of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009 will kick off Sept. 5. That’s when the Texas Senate will try Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom the state House voted 121-23 to impeach in May. More than 70% of GOP representatives voted to impeach their fellow Republican, including all five GOP members from his home county.

Many of the impeachment charges involve Mr. Paxton’s relationship with real-estate operator Nate Paul. He gave Mr. Paxton’s mistress a job after she was fired by her boss, a colleague of Mr. Paxton’s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, and allegedly renovated Mr. Paxton’s Austin home at no cost. In return, Mr. Paxton’s office allegedly gave Mr. Paul “favorable legal assistance” to help keep the developer’s company afloat.

Messrs. Paxton and Paul deny all wrongdoing. Mr. Paxton showed his good character by using taxpayer dollars to pay for an outside law firm to prepare a report disputing the validity of the charges.

Read More at the WSJ

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