The Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, teetered on the brink of impeachment Thursday after years of scandal, criminal charges and corruption accusations.
In an unanimous decision, a Republican-led House investigative committee recommended impeaching the state’s top lawyer on 20 articles, including bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust.
The state house of representatives could vote on the recommendation as soon as Friday. If the house impeaches Paxton, he would be forced to leave office immediately. Only two officials in Texas’ nearly 200-year history have been impeached.
The state’s Republican majority has largely met the allegations against Paxton with silence until now.
As reported by the Texas Tribune, four investigators, testifying before the house general investigating committee, described in “painstaking and methodical detail” ways in which they said Paxton violated multiple state laws.
Investigators said they believed Paxton wrongly spent official funds and misused his authority to help a friend and financial backer, the Tribune said.
In response, Paxton maintained his innocence and vowed “to continue my fight for conservative Texas values”.
Paxton was elected in 2014 and has won re-election twice. He has faced significant legal scrutiny before. In 2015, Paxton was indicted on securities fraud charges for which he is yet to stand trial. The US justice department is also investigating Paxton over alleged corruption, according to the Associated Press.
In Texas, the state investigators initially looked into a possible $3.3m deal to settle a whistleblower complaint brought by four top deputies who were terminated after alleging Paxton pocketed bribes and engaged in other improper conduct.
Andrew Murr, the committee chair, said the settlement would have to be allowed by the state. Murr also said a settlement would thwart a trial in which accusations against Paxton could be litigated publicly.
Members of the committee asked whether legislators were being made part of a cover-up, the Tribune said.
Murr said: “It is alarming and very serious having this discussion when millions of taxpayer dollars have been asked [for] to remedy what is alleged to be some wrong. That’s something we have to grapple with. It’s challenging.”
While many accusations against Paxton were previously known, Wednesday’s hearing indicated the broad scope of investigations. The committee has extensive powers and the ability to recommend punishment to the Texas house.
Donna Cameron, one of the investigators, reportedly said some of Paxton’s alleged misconduct could constitute felony offenses including abuse of official capacity, misapplication of fiduciary property and misuse of public information.
Investigators believe Paxton made top-level employees do tasks that helped his friend and donor, Nate Paul, a real-estate investor. Another allegation against Paxton is that he gave Paul an FBI dossier about an investigation into him, the Tribune reported.
Paul did not immediately respond to a Guardian request for comment.
Maintaining his innocence, Paxton claimed a politically motivated effort to “sabotage my work”.
“The false testimony of highly partisan Democrat [sic] lawyers with the goal of manipulation and misleading the public is reprehensible,” Paxton said on Twitter. “Every allegation is easily disproved, and I look forward to continuing my fight for conservative Texas values.”
Paxton has long faced criticism and legal scrutiny. Recently, his investigation of gender-affirming care for youth prompted doctors at an adolescent medicine department in Austin to leave the facility en masse.
Paxton alleged the investigation was needed because the care children were receiving at Dell children’s clinic was illegal, due to their age.
While gender-affirming care for minors is legal in Texas, Paxton and the rightwing governor, Greg Abbott, have described such treatment as child abuse and sought to punish providers and guardians through other legal avenues.
Last summer, on the day Roe v Wade was overturned, Paxton issued a notice to encourage local prosecutors to swiftly bring criminal charges against Texans who help people obtain abortions.
In February, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction, barring several prosecutors from pursuing organizations that assist with out-of-state abortion care.
Agencies contributed to this report
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