Monica Madden, Ryan Chandler, and John Thomas
AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday refuted rumors that he may resign before his impeachment trial begins early next month — but the House team leading the effort to remove him from office says the trial will proceed regardless.
“Wrong! I will never stop fighting for the people of Texas and defending our conservative values,” Paxton wrote on social media in response to reports he may resign. It’s a rare on-the-record statement from the suspended Attorney General, who is barred from speaking publicly about his looming trial.
Paxton’s counsel also denied the idea.
“Whomever is saying that must be talking to a different Ken Paxton than I am,” said defense attorney Dan Cogdell to Nexstar.
The rumors were first reported on social media by Quorum Report, and come after Paxton’s name led the list of witnesses whom the House impeachment managers intend to call to testify during trial, The Dallas Morning News reported this week. Paxton faces several felony indictments and federal investigations for charges tangential to his impeachment charges, which will play out after his impeachment trial.
Yet, regardless of Paxton’s status, House prosecutors say the trial will go on.
“The House managers intend to fulfill their Constitutional duty and proceed with an impeachment trial,” a source close to House impeachment managers told Nexstar. “Resignation does not prevent a trial. The Constitution is clear that a Senate trial is required after the House has voted to impeach.”
Dick DeGuerin, one of the attorneys presenting the case on behalf of House managers, told Nexstar “I’m preparing for the trial that starts on September 5.”
In a statement on social media, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick — who will preside over the trial — said the reports of Paxton’s possible resignation are false.
“There are no ‘back-channel’ conversations with any party to the proceedings. This is a fabricated story,” Patrick wrote.
The Texas Constitution states a state official’s impeachment “shall be tried by the Senate.”
The nearest precedent for this historic impeachment of a statewide official is nearly 100 years prior in 1924. In Governor James “Pa” Ferguson’s impeachment, Ferguson did resign from office, but only after the Senate had convicted him. His resignation came one day before the Senate planned to remove him from office.
There is no precedent for a statewide official resigning before the trial convenes.
At the end of May, the House overwhelmingly voted to impeach Paxton 121-23, causing his immediate suspension from office. No aspect of the trial will include criminal charges; senators’ vote will determine whether or not Paxton must be permanently removed from office. The allegations against Paxton include bribery, abuse of office, and obstruction. The Republican has faced controversies and criminal charges hanging over his tenure.
Paxton will face a trial in the Senate beginning on Sep. 5. He will be removed from office if two-thirds of the Texas Senate finds him guilty on any of the articles of impeachment.