After years of scandal, criminal charges and corruption accusations, Texas’s Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, is on the brink of impeachment.
In a unanimous decision, a Republican-led House investigative committee that spent months looking into Mr Paxton recommended impeaching the state’s top lawyer on 20 articles, including bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust.
The Texas House of Representatives will vote on Saturday on whether to impeach Mr Paxton, an investigating panel announced on Friday. If it impeaches him, he would be forced to leave office immediately.
“I want to invite my fellow citizens and friends to peacefully come let their voices be heard at the Capitol tomorrow,” the three-term Republican said during a news conference. “Exercise your right to petition your government.”
Mr Paxton decried the impeachment proceeding as an effort to disenfranchise the voters who returned him to office in November but did not take questions from reporters.
His remarks come as the House prepares to consider whether to impeach the attorney general on 20 articles, including bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust.
The move sets up what could be a remarkably sudden downfall for one of the Republican party’s most prominent legal combatants, who in 2020 asked the US supreme court to overturn President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Only two officials in Texas’ nearly 200-year history have been impeached.
Mr Paxton, 60, has criticised the impeachment effort as an attempt to “overthrow the will of the people and disenfranchise the voters of our state.”
He has said the charges are based on “hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims”.
He was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, but has yet to stand trial.
When the five-member committee’s investigation came to light Tuesday, Mr Paxton suggested it was a political attack by the house’s “liberal” Republican speaker, Dade Phelan.
He called for Mr Phelan’s resignation and accused him of being drunk during a marathon session last Friday. Mr Phelan’s office brushed off the accusation as Mr Paxton attempting to “save face”.
“It’s a sad day for Texas as we witness the corrupt political establishment unite in this illegitimate attempt to overthrow the will of the people and disenfranchise the voters of our state,” Mr Paxton said in a statement on Thursday, calling the committee’s findings “hearsay and gossip, parroting long-disproven claims”.
By moving against him, Mr Paxton said: “The RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) in the Texas Legislature are now on the same side as Joe Biden.”
Impeachment requires a majority vote of the state’s usually 150-member house chamber, which Republicans now control 85-64, since a Republican representative resigned ahead of an expected vote to expel him.
It is unclear how many supporters Mr Paxton may have in the House, where he served five terms before becoming a state senator.
Since the prospect of impeachment suddenly emerged Wednesday, none of Texas’ other top Republicans have voiced support for Mr Paxton.
The articles of impeachment issued by the investigative committee, which include three Republicans and two Democrats, stem largely from Mr Paxton’s relationship with one of his wealthy donors.
They deal with Mr Paxton’s alleged efforts to protect the donor from an FBI investigation and his attempts to thwart whistleblower complaints brought by his own staff.