A day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accused the state House speaker of presiding intoxicated and called for his resignation, the House Ethics Committee heard explosive testimony from investigators on Wednesday detailing what they say the attorney general has been doing for years. of misconduct.
This week’s events marked a flare-up of tension between two top Republicans in the most populous red state.
A public squabble has been brewing for years.Paxton, a more conservative figure, aligns himself with former president donald trump And using his position to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election, he has long argued that the House leadership is too liberal.
His attack on state House Speaker Dade Phelan vividly illustrated a political environment in which Republicans control all levers of state government but are divided into factions vying for power and influence.
paxton tuesday posted on twitter A letter to the state House General Investigations Committee, the chamber’s ethics panel, requested an investigation into Phelan’s performance of duties in what Paxton described as a “state of apparent intoxication.”
Paxton’s call for Phelan’s resignation came after a video of Phelan circulating on social media over the weekend showed Phelan appearing to be coy as he presided over the House session at the end of Friday’s late-night session.
Paxton offered no evidence other than the video footage to support his claim that Phelan was drunk.
“It is with great disappointment that I call on Speaker Dade Phelan to resign at the conclusion of this legislative session,” Paxton said in a statement. a statement Posted to his twitter account. “Texans were dismayed to witness his performance presiding over the Texas House of Representatives in an apparently debilitated state of intoxication.”
Less than an hour later, the state House General Investigating Committee — a panel that investigates corruption in the state government and has the power to initiate impeachment proceedings — revealed that it had subpoenaed records from Paxton’s office as part of a probe that Phelan’s office said began in March. part of the investigation.
“It should come as no surprise that a committee appointed by Liberal Speaker Dade Phelan seeks to disenfranchise Texas voters and undermine my job as Attorney General,” Paxton said in a statement on Twitter. “False testimony by highly partisan Democratic attorneys with the intent to manipulate and mislead the public is reprehensible. Every charge is easily refuted and I look forward to continuing to fight for conservative Texas values.”
Phelan’s office said Paxton’s allegations were merely retaliation for the House Ethics Committee’s investigation.
“Mr. Paxton’s statement today is nothing more than a last-ditch effort to save face,” Phelan communications director Cait Wittman said in a statement Tuesday.
Democratic state Rep. Terry Canales said the broader context of Friday’s full-day meeting made it clear Phelan was “unaffected.”
“On that night, the House of Representatives had been in session for over 13 hours, and we had done so for multiple days in a row. We were all exhausted,” Canales said in a statement. “Nevertheless, I had multiple interactions with the speaker during the day and that night, and I can unequivocally say he was unaffected.”
The row between Phelan and Paxton highlights personal and ideological tensions within the Republican Party as the party approaches the 2024 presidential primary.
Phelan also has conflict in recent months Discuss property tax cuts, school choice and other key issues with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, another more conservative Republican official.
State House hearings are up to date A string of legal disputes For Paxton.CNN has previously reported He faces FBI investigation for abuse of power justice department prosecutor In Washington, D.C., took over the corruption investigation. He was also indicted for securities fraud in a separate, unrelated case. Paxton has denied all allegations and allegations.
A team of lawyers working with the House Ethics Committee spent three hours on Wednesday working out the details of the New Year’s Eve misconduct allegations against Paxton.
The investigation began in March after Paxton sought to use $3.3 million in state funds to settle a whistleblower lawsuit after four former employees of the attorney general’s office accused him of using his power to benefit political friend Nate Paul Paul, a real estate investor, has donated dozens and thousands of dollars to Paxton’s campaign. In the settlement, Paxton apologized but did not admit wrongdoing or take responsibility. He has denied wrongdoing and said in a statement that he had agreed to a settlement “to calm the issue.”
Since the hearing was held on Wednesday, Texas Tribune reports Paxton criticized the investigation on a call to Dallas radio host Mark Davis’ show.