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Monday, April 22, 2024

Internal Strife Among Texas G.O.P. Leaders Erupts over Allegations of Corruption and Intoxication

On Wednesday, a House committee started steps towards a potential impeachment of the Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, on claims of corruption and abuse of power, surprising many and igniting a raging intraparty fight among senior Republicans in the Texas Capitol.

Investigators working for the Republican-controlled House panel, the Committee on General Investigating, publicly detailed each accusation against Mr. Paxton over the course of three hours of public testimony, ultimately concluding that Mr. Paxton had most likely committed crimes.

The issue of whether or not the committee would recommend impeachment remained unanswered. However, Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan has shown he is open to that conclusion despite Mr. Paxton’s public calls for his resignation this week.

The potential for an impeachment vote and subsequent trial in the Senate was already being discussed by politicians and lobbyists in Austin on Wednesday afternoon, along with how it may affect the balance of power in the Republican-controlled Capitol.

There had been barely contained animosity between Mr. Paxton and Mr. Phelan, two senior Texas Republicans from opposing ideological factions, for months. Mr. Paxton was closely linked with supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Paxton, who is already under investigation for securities fraud, publicly accused Mr. Phelan of carrying out his responsibilities while intoxicated and demanded the speaker’s resignation, sparking a new round of tensions.

A bygone period of outrageous behaviour and political posturing at the State Capitol was brought back to life by the scurrilous claims. Even while Republicans in Texas have both houses of the legislature and all statewide offices, they have not always agreed on how to use that power, and the resulting web of resentments and finger-pointing has drawn attention to a much simpler and more significant political reality in the Lone Star State.

A bygone period of outrageous behaviour and political posturing at the State Capitol was brought back to life by the scurrilous claims. Even while Republicans in Texas have both houses of the legislature and all statewide offices, they have not always agreed on how to use that power, and the resulting web of resentments and finger-pointing has drawn attention to a much simpler and more significant political reality in the Lone Star State.

On Tuesday, Mr. Paxton made his charge against Mr. Phelan, and on Wednesday, the public hearing and subpoenas were announced. Mr. Paxton based his judgement and request for Mr. Phelan to quit on footage from a late-night session of the House on Friday, which has since gone viral on the internet. Mr. Phelan seems to slur his sentences at the 5 hour 29 minute period of an official House video.

On Friday, after overseeing more than 12 hours of hearings and votes, Speaker Phelan’s speech did appear slurred in one area of footage, but several witnesses stated they did not detect any problems with his behaviour.

When Mr. Paxton made the claim, Mr. Phelan’s staff dismissed it as “a last-ditch effort to save face.” Nonetheless, it demonstrated how much his leadership in the Texas House has outraged Mr. Paxton’s coalition of far-right legislators and conservative activists. They feel that Mr. Phelan has impeded or watered down their goals, such as border patrol funding, vouchers for private schools, and displays of the Ten Commandments in public institutions.

Mr. Phelan, however, refused. He stated it wasn’t a good use of government money in a February TV interview.

Mr. Phelan’s spokesperson said on Wednesday that the request for settlement cash to avoid a public trial prompted the probe by the House committee. The outcome was a more public airing of Mr. Paxton’s actions.

According to Terese Buess, one of the investigators, Mr. Paxton may have broken multiple state and federal crimes, including abuse of official authority, violation of whistle-blower legislation, and neglect of duty, as she explained to the committee members on Wednesday.

Several Republican legislators who were asked their opinion on Mr. Paxton’s allegations and the possibility of impeachment refused to respond.

In light of the allegations made against Mr. Paxton, Democratic Representative Chris Turner of the Dallas region said the attorney general was “the last person” to call “on anyone to resign.”

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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