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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton faces an impeachment trial next week

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Outside of Texas, Ken Paxton is known for the many lawsuits he brought as the state's Republican attorney general against the Biden administration's immigration policy and against swing states over the 2020 election result. Inside Texas, he's the talk of the state for different reasons. Next week he will be facing trial for 20 articles of impeachment, for conspiracy, bribery and obstruction of justice. That is among other charges. To get an idea of what to expect with this impeachment trial, we're joined now by Sergio Martinez-Beltran, political reporter for The Texas Newsroom. Hey there.

SERGIO MARTINEZ-BELTRAN, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: All right. So it sounds like Paxton is facing all kinds of charges next week. Walk us through the big ones.

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Yeah. So like you mentioned, the list of allegations against Paxton is very long. The big ones are constitutional bribery, abuse of official capacity, misuse of official information and even retaliation against former employees. And most of these charges are related to Paxton's relationship with an Austin businessman named Nate Paul. According to Texas House impeachment managers, Paxton tried to use his office and his position as attorney of the state of Texas to shield Paul from an FBI investigation against him. And that included hiring an outside lawyer, which meant he blew all agency protocols to issue grand jury subpoenas to help Paul. And it's important to note that Paul is a friend of Paxton and, at one point in 2018, donated $25,000 to his reelection campaign.

KELLY: For context, when he was the chief law enforcer for the state of Texas, Paxton wielded tremendous influence inside the state and, to some extent, outside of Texas, too. Just explain the power he would have held through his office.

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Right. Inside the state, he has a lot of power. And mind you, he is currently suspended, but he still has a lot of influence. Today, for example, is a good example. Lots of laws go into effect like a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors in Texas. There was an injunction earlier in the week which would have blocked the law from going into effect. But yesterday the state appealed the ruling. And in the past, Paxton has said that when the state appeals a ruling, while that is in the court of appeals, the law gets enforced. And nobody has really tested him on this. So the gender-affirming care ban is currently enforceable, and that's just one example. Now, outside of Texas, he's been very active in suing the Obama and Biden administrations over immigration, federal spending and medication abortion.

KELLY: And let me loop back to those impeachment charges. Has Paxton responded to those, said anything about those allegations?

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Yes. Paxton has fiercely denied any allegations of wrongdoing. He's even called his impeachment illegal. Here's Paxton talking to reporters days before the Texas House moved to impeach.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEN PAXTON: They are showcasing their absolute contempt for the electoral process. Every politician who supports this deceitful impeachment attempt will inflict lasting damage on the credibility of the Texas House, which I served in.

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: Again, that was Paxton talking before the House voted to impeach him. More recently, Paxton has denied allegations that he will resign before Tuesday. He has said he will not surrender. And we are expecting to hear from him tomorrow at a rally in Collin County. That's the county where Paxton has lived and where he rose to prominence and where he still has a lot of allies.

KELLY: Allies in Collin County. What about more broadly? What about in the Texas legislature overall?

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: So that's a great question. He still has some supporters within the legislature, but in the Texas House, for instance, most Republicans voted to impeach him. For them and for many others, Paxton's alleged misdeeds are just too hard to ignore. And the witness list is extensive. It includes some of Paxton's former deputies, who are very credible because many of them were recruited by Paxton personally. And yet they reported him to the FBI. So for many Republicans in the Texas House, that's where they draw their line. The question is whether that will be true in the Senate, too. But even if Paxton gets through this, he also faces criminal charges for securities fraud. So his troubles are just beginning.

KELLY: Sergio Martinez-Beltran, gearing up for what sounds like it's going to be a big week of political reporting there in Austin. Thank you.

MARTINEZ-BELTRAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.
Liz Baker
Liz Baker is a producer on NPR's National Desk based in Los Angeles, and is often on the road producing coverage of domestic breaking news stories.
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