If Ken Paxton’s Staff Can Do It, Why Can’t Dianne Feinstein’s?

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been in office since 2015, and since 2015 he has been one of the most destructive forces in American law. He’s used his office as a Republican wish-fulfillment machine, trying to win through conservative courts the policies that Republicans cannot win at the ballot box. It was Paxton who organized a red-state challenge to the Affordable Care Act in 2018, trying to get Obamacare declared unconstitutional (he lost). Paxton also led the 2018 challenge to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and brought it all the way to the Supreme Court (he lost). And he challenged Obama’s Clean Power Plan in 2017 (he won). During the Trump administration, he turned his attention toward reproductive rights, and he’s been at the forefront of trying to implement Texas’s bounty-hunter law, which punishes anyone who tries to help pregnant people in Texas receive an abortion. So far, during the Biden administration, he’s sued the administration more than 50 times, mainly over Biden’s immigration policies and student debt-relief programs. For Paxton, there is simply no difference between the law and his conservative political agenda.

Paxton has also been one of the most corrupt public officials in America in recent years. He has been under indictment since 2015 for securities fraud. But he has managed to use his status as attorney general, and a number of procedural tricks, to evade facing trial on those charges. We’re talking about a man who once hopped into a getaway truck, driven by his wife, to avoid a subpoena compelling him to testify in an abortion case. His wife, by the way, is a state senator.

All of this is apparently fine with a majority of Texas voters (the same people who have infected this country with Ted Cruz). They elected Paxton to a third term as AG back in 2022, just two years after he came out as an election denier and, in one of the dumbest lawsuits I’ve ever seen, tried to get the Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 presidential election .

Given Paxton’s apparent popularity with Texas voters, I was surprised to see that the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to impeach him last week and put him on leave from his duties pending trial in the Texas Senate. The votes were 121-23. You don’t often see Republicans turn on one of their own like this.

The credit for this shocking turn of law before party has to go to Paxton’s staff. His own employees sounded the alarm on the misdeeds that led to his impeachment.

The Texas House impeached Paxton on 20 charges of bribery, obstruction of justice, and abuse of public trust. Many of those charges involving Paxton’s favor were accused of performing on behalf of one of his wealthy donors, a man named Nate Paul. Paul is being investigated by the FBI for real estate fraud, so Paxton decides to green-light a state investigation of the FBI’s actions, going so far as to hire his own outside attorney, over the objections of his staff. The most egregious allegation, to me, involves a Covid-related opinion. Paxton apparently forced his staff to write for Paul’s benefit. Paxton’s staff claim that he asked them to determine if any of the various Covid-19 legal moratoriums could be invoked to delay foreclosure proceedings. He was told that this would not work. So Paxton allegedly ordered them to rewrite the opinion and argued that foreclosure sales were prevented by Covid-19 restrictions. His staff couldn’t make sense of Paxton’s directive—until they realized that Paul had a number of properties facing foreclosure proceedings.

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