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The Senate impeachment trial begins Tuesday for embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton.
He is accused of abusing the office he’s held for the past eight years.
Here’s what to know about Texas’ highest ranking law enforcement officer.
Meet Ken Paxton
Paxton, a Republican, was elected as attorney general in 2014 and took office in 2015. He’s in his third term, which he won with 53.4% of votes. Paxton has been among former President Donald Trump’s top allies in Texas and was endorsed by Trump in his most recent election.
Before serving as attorney general, Paxton served in the Texas House for a decade and in the Texas Senate for about two years, representing parts of Collin and Dallas counties. He and Sen. Angela Paxton, his wife, are from McKinney and have four children.
As attorney general, Paxton has more than 4,000 employees. The office represents Texas in legal matters, handles rulings on open records requests, oversees the collection of court-ordered child support and handles the Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund.
The House in May voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton and send 20 articles to the Senate for a trial. He is suspended from the office.
Senators will decide whether to acquit or convict Paxton. If convicted, Paxton is removed from office. Senators can separately take up whether to bar him from seeking office, if convicted. They could also dismiss the articles.
Paxton graduated from Baylor University and received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.
He and his family are members of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.
The articles of impeachment
Paxton is facing 20 articles of impeachment, which include charges of disregard of official duty, making false statements in public records, constitutional bribery, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and attempted conspiracy, misapplication of public resources, dereliction of duty, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust.
Most relate to allegations that he misused his office to give Austin real estate developer Nate Paul legal help. Paul was providing favors like home renovations and a job for Paxton’s mistress, according to the articles.
Now former employers reported Paxton to the FBI for aiding Paul in 2020 and filed a lawsuit claiming they were retaliated against for whistleblowing.
Four articles stem from Paxton’s long-standing legal trouble that resulted in 2015 federal indictments, but they being held in abeyance, per Senate rules, so evidence on the articles isn’t expected to come up.
Paxton’s attorneys have maintained the articles pending against him are unfounded.
Federal indictments against Paxton
Paxton’s federal indictments have loomed over his career as Texas attorney general.
He is accused of soliciting investments in Severgy Inc., a McKinney-based company, without disclosing he had been compensated. The case has long been delayed but a trial date is expected to be set in October, according to The Texas Tribune..
The result of his indictment trial could impact next steps for the securities fraud case, Paxton’s attorney Dan Cogdell told reporters after a August hearing in the case.
“Logically, if Ken prevails, we’ll go forward,” Cogdell said, according to The Texas Tribune. “If Ken loses, that’s a kill shot to his political career, so it opens the door to a resolution that’s not open right now.”
Cogdell is representing Paxton in both the federal case and in the impeachment trial.
Paxton, who spoke at the Jan. 6 rally in Washington., made national headlines in December 2020 when he filed a lawsuit against four battleground states that were key to President Joe Biden winning the November 2020 election. The lawsuit was criticized by many legal experts. The Supreme Court opted to not take up the case.
The lawsuit resulted in a legal challenge between Ken Paxton and the State Bar of Texas.
Paxton is eligible to practice law in Texas and does not have any public disciplinary history with the Texas Bar.