PLANO — Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday lambasted the Republican-led Texas House of Representatives that voted to impeach him as he braces for the trial that will determine his political future.
Appearing at a Labor Day picnic hosted by the Collin County Republican Party three days before the start of his impeachment trial Tuesday, Paxton said he “would love to talk about what’s coming up for me in the next couple of weeks” but acknowledged a gag order prevents him from talking about the proceedings.
That didn’t stop him from being sharply critical of House Republicans, Speaker Dade Phelan and the media.
“If you kind of kept up, you can read that I’m responsible for the JFK assassination and for 9/11 and everything in between,” Paxton said. “Just keep reading.”
The attorney general, who was suspended without pay following the overwhelming 121-23 impeachment vote in May, faces allegations of bribery, abuse of office and obstruction of justice after his senior staff accused him of using his office to do political favors for real-estate developer Nate Paul in exchange for home renovations and a job for a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair.
Paxton denies the allegations.
Despite the infidelity accusations, Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton — who announced Saturday that she would seek a third term — presented a united front at the picnic, holding hands as they entered and left the event and sharing a long kiss after Angela Paxton introduced her husband to the stage.
“To be very personal,” Angela Paxton said haltingly, “I’ve watched him fight against what to me feels like hell itself. But I want you to know the emphasis there is fight, and I have watched this man fight for me, fight for us as a couple and you can be very sure that he’s going to fight for you.”
In order to secure a conviction, a two-thirds majority of the state Senate would have to vote against the attorney general. Angela Paxton is required to attend her husband’s impeachment proceedings but will not be allowed to vote.
Ken Paxton spent the bulk of his 10-minute speech criticizing the House, which he has frequently described as insufficiently conservative, and Phelan, its speaker. The two top Texas Republicans have had a publicly acrimonious relationship which culminated in Paxton accusing Phelan of being drunk on the job after Phelan seemed to slur his words on the House floor.
“The Democrats usually have more influence in Texas over who the Republican speaker is than the Republicans do,” Paxton said. “That’s how we get decision-making in the Texas House that doesn’t look like Republican decisions.”
He encouraged the crowd to help him “clean house” in the next election cycle.
The crowd was overwhelmingly supportive of Paxton, who took pictures with dozens of people as he waited his turn to speak. Other speakers Saturday included Collin County Judge Chris Hill and state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
Jeff Axelrod, a Republican precinct chair in Denton County, described the proceedings against Paxton as an “un-American” effort by “liberal Republicans just trying to cover themselves.”
Paxton, Axelrod said, “is the enemy of the swamp.” Referring to the Republicans who voted to impeach him, “the only way they can survive is to impeach the people who want to drain the swamp,” he said.
“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and they’re getting him out of the way so he doesn’t bring down Dade Phelan and his drunken behavior,” Axelrod said.
David Kemp, a Collin County Republican precinct chair, called the impeachment “the next hoax,” drawing parallels between the investigations into Paxton and his staunch supporter, former President Donald Trump.
“Every time they indict,” he said, “we unite.”