Texas congressional members sound off on Paxton impeachment trial

A person walks in front of the U.S. Capitol building at dusk on Jan. 25, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Julia Nikhinson For The Texas Tribune, Julia Nikhinson For The Texas Tribune)

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WASHINGTON — The impeachment trial for suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is underway and attracting attention from members of Congress.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a former Texas attorney general, said he’d been watching the trial “off and on” and called the allegations of Paxton’s actions “deeply disturbing.”

“I think it’s unfolding the way it should,” Cornyn told reporters last week. Cornyn has previously called Paxton’s scandals an embarrassment.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, didn’t respond to questions about the trial but has previously denounced the impeachment proceedings.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, who served as first assistant attorney general to Paxton, has taken sides against his former boss. Roy called for Paxton’s resignation in 2020.

On Friday, Roy posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, in support of David Maxwell, a former Texas Ranger and one of the top deputies in Paxton’s office. Maxwell, who took the witness stand Friday, was among the staffers who reported Paxton to the FBI and he testified that he warned Paxton to stay away from Nate Paul, the political donor who Paxton is accused of misusing his office to help.

“I stand squarely alongside David Maxwell & those standing with him,” Roy said. “He is a Texas Ranger, law enforcement veteran over 4 decades, & my friend. His integrity is rock solid against political hot air.”

Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, said he was following the trial closely and complimented Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is acting as judge in the trial, as “thoughtful and impartial.”

Gooden said he thought the defense had effectively discredited Maxwell in his Friday testimony.

“The Paxton defense team is likely celebrating a winning Friday after an esteemed Texas Ranger transformed into a non-credible witness for the House,” Gooden said in a statement to the Tribune.

Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Amarillo, also backed Paxton and blamed the “Swamp in Austin.”

“There’s nothing new being revealed about Ken Paxton. This was all out there before the last election and the voters made their choice,” Jackson posted on X. “They chose Ken Paxton. It’s too bad the establishment has other plans. They’re subverting the will of the people!!”

Paxton is facing 16 articles of impeachment alleging years of corruption and bribery, as well as misuse of power to help his friend investigate his rivals while his businesses were floundering.

Democrats were quick to pile on against the attorney general.

Rep. Jasmine Crockett, a former state lawmaker, criticized Paxton’s “clear violation” of the law and office policy.

“It all points to something I’ve observed since my time in the Texas Legislature: the atmosphere of absolute impunity with which he and his friends have acted while conducting what should be a public service,” Crockett, a Dallas Democrat, said in a statement to the Tribune. “As if they are completely safe from the consequences of the laws they themselves pass.”

Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, served as a state senator and was one of seven prosecutors of former President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment case. Garcia said she thinks the trial “looks to be fair.”

“You can see, at least from a lot of them, the facts that have come out so far, that there is a lot of evidence there against the the attorney general,” Garcia told the Tribune. “So we're waiting to see what happens.”

Also a veteran of the Texas Legislature, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said Paxton should have been impeached “a long time ago.”

“When I got to the Texas Legislature at 28 years old in 2003 Ken Paxton, also a freshman, had his office directly across from mine,” Castro posted on X. “In the years since he’s committed fraud and other corrupt acts.”

Louie Gohmert, a former GOP congressman who ran for attorney general against Paxton in 2022, argued that Paxton deserved to be tried for his behavior in a column he penned for the Daily Caller.

Gohmert said the trial is dividing conservatives and that some Texas legislators are being threatened by Paxton allies if they vote to remove the attorney general from office.

“I’ve seen corrupt prosecution,” Gohmert wrote. “Pursuing Paxton is not it.”

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