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Texas AG accuses state House speaker of being ‘intoxicated,’ calls for resignation

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday called for the resignation of the top lawmaker in the state House of Representatives, accusing fellow Republican Dade Phelan of being “in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication” while presiding over the legislature late last week.

Paxton’s comments Tuesday appear to be referring to a video that seems to show Phelan moving slowly and speaking unclearly on Saturday, after what local television station KXAN said was “the end of a 14-hour day” at the House.

Paxton, who settled a corruption case in February brought by former aides for $3.3 million, did not immediately provide evidence to support his claim against Phelan, and his office did not respond to requests for it Tuesday.

The attorney general also called for the Texas House Committee on General Investigating to investigate Phelan for having been “in an obviously intoxicated state.”

Cait Wittman, a spokeswoman for Phelan, said in a statement that Paxton’s move is “a last ditch effort to save face” amid his own legal problems.

Wittman said the committee has been investigating Paxton’s office since March “and the motives for and timing behind Paxton’s statement today couldn’t be more evident.”

The attorney general posted a statement on social media Tuesday afternoon saying Phelan’s conduct “negatively impacted” the work of the state legislature and “created a credibility crisis for all Republican candidates and for our entire Party.” And Paxton said that while he hoped Phelan “will get the help he needs, he has proven himself unworthy of Texans’ trust and incapable of leading the Texas House.”

Speaker Dade Phelan should resign.

— Attorney General Ken Paxton (@KenPaxtonTX) May 23, 2023

Rep. Andrew Murr (R), chairman of the General Investigating Committee, did not respond to messages Tuesday but in a letter obtained by the Associated Press said the panel is investigating Paxton’s settlement with his former staffers who reported the attorney general to the FBI. In the letter, Murr also directed Paxton and his aides to “preserve all communications” related to the settlement and to the firing of whistleblowers and “the alleged wrongful conduct engaged in by you and your office.”

Three other members of the committee did not respond to messages seeking comment. A representative for a fourth committee member, Rep. Oscar Longoria (D), declined to comment.

In February, Paxton agreed to a settlement with the former aides who reported him to the FBI, the AP reported. That settlement included a $3.3 million payment of taxpayer money to four of Paxton’s former staffers, stemming from October 2020 allegations of inappropriate conduct.

But Phelan and other Texas legislators have balked at using taxpayer money to pay for Paxton’s settlement. Phelan, according to the Texas Tribune, has said he personally opposes using public funds for that matter.

While Republicans dominate the state legislature and Texas politics, intraparty fighting has sown deep divisions among some lawmakers there. Earlier this month, the Texas House voted 147-0 to expel state Rep. Bryan Slaton (R) a day after the lawmaker resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct with a 19-year-old aide.

Paxton, who was elected attorney general in 2014, has been under felony indictment for securities fraud since 2015.

The FBI opened an investigation into Paxton in November 2020 on allegations he used his office to benefit a wealthy donor, the AP reported.

A Texas judge ordered Paxton to sit for a deposition about accusations of securities fraud in September 2022. Later that month Paxton “ran” from his home and took off in a truck with his wife when a process server showed up at his home with a subpoena in an unrelated case, according to an affidavit from that process server.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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