Texas Republican lawmakers on Saturday overwhelmingly voted to impeach the southern state’s attorney general on corruption charges, suspending him from office until he faces trial in the Senate.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s temporary removal marked the stunning downfall of an ardent defender of former president Donald Trump with an ascendant national profile.
After an all-afternoon debate, lawmakers considering Paxton’s impeachment voted 121 in favor, 23 against with two not voting.
“The evidence is substantial. It is alarming and unnerving,” said legislator Andrew Murr, a Republican.
Paxton did not back down despite the overwhelming vote against him.
“What we just witnessed is illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust,” Paxton tweeted after the vote.
I am beyond grateful to have the support of millions of Texans who recognize that what we just witnessed is illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust. I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just. pic.twitter.com/fEiAroA2DW
— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) May 27, 2023
Trump took to his Truth Social platform and said those who impeached Paxton were “radical left Democrats” and “RINOs” – or Republicans in name only.
The indictment alleged that Paxton pressured his staff to protect a friend and donor from prosecution.
In exchange, the donor gave a job to a woman with whom the Republican had an extramarital affair and financed work on his house, the document asserted.
It was not immediately clear when the Republican-led Senate would put Paxton on trial. His permanent removal from office would require a two-thirds vote by the Senate.
While the outcome is uncertain, Paxton, 60, has seen his support evaporate among Republicans in recent days, including from Governor Greg Abbott, who declined to support the ultraconservative attorney general in the runup to the vote.
Abbott, also a supporter of Trump, now must appoint a temporary replacement for Paxton.
Elected in 2014 to head the Texas judiciary, Paxton was indicted for financial fraud in 2015, and his trial is pending. This did not impede him from winning reelection in 2018, and again in 2022.
In 2020, members of his team had warned of his abuse of power, and they were fired. These “whistleblowers” later filed a wrongful dismissal claim.
Earlier this year, Paxton reached an agreement to end their lawsuits in exchange for $3.3 million.
He had asked Texas to foot the bill, which prompted a congressional committee investigation and the impeachment vote that saw his suspension from office.
Paxton is now only the third sitting official to have been impeached in Texas history, and the first since 1975.
This story originally appeared on France24