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PLANO — Ken Paxton, the state’s embattled suspended attorney general, took jabs at his political opponents — including members of his own party — during a rare public appearance Saturday, the eve of his historic impeachment trial that begins next week.
Paxton is under a gag order that prevents him from discussing the trial that begins Tuesday. But in remarks to a packed pavilion at a park near his North Texas home, Paxton blasted the Texas House of Representatives that impeached him and name-checked its leader, Speaker Dade Phelan.
“I can talk about something that I think has become maybe the leading issue that we need to deal with as a county, and the state needs to deal with it, and that is something known as the Texas House of Representatives and the leadership in the Texas House of Representatives,” Paxton told the audience at a Collin County GOP picnic.
“We all know the name Dade Phelan, we saw the videos of what happened, and we see his leadership,” Paxton said, referring to a video of Phelan slurring his words on the House floor the evening before the House announced its investigation into Paxton. Some Phelan critics suggested Phelan was drunk.
“Let’s clean house,” he said.
Paxton faces 16 impeachment charges, many of which accuse the three-term attorney general of repeatedly abusing his office to help a campaign donor, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul. The Texas House approved the impeachment articles in May by a 123-23 bipartisan vote, setting the stage for the state’s third impeachment trial since 1876.
The Senate will serve as the court of impeachment, and senators will act as jurors, in the trial that begins Tuesday.
Appearing alongside Paxton Saturday was his wife, Angela Paxton, a two-term Republican state senator who holds the McKinney seat he previously held. As a senator, Angela Paxton will sit for the trial but won’t be allowed to vote or attend private deliberations.
But Angela Paxton will be present when impeachment lawyers lay out their evidence — which includes allegations that her husband asked Paul to hire a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair.
On Saturday, the Paxtons mingled and snapped photos with supporters, occasionally holding hands and kissing between their back-to-back speeches.
“I've known this guy for a long, long time and we have gone through a lot together and I have watched him fight against insurmountable odds — in campaigns, in legal battles,” Angela Paxton told the crowd. “I've watched him fight against what to me feels like hell itself.”
Dozens of supporters packed the pavilion at Bob Woodruff Park in Plano, many wearing Ken Paxton stickers on their shirts and others wearing Angela Paxton campaign gear — signs that the suspended attorney general’s status as a conservative warrior has helped him keep a devoted core of support in his backyard.
“People do love him for his work,” said Abraham George, chair of the Collin County GOP. “On a lot of things that matter to Texans, he's been on the front lines of that.”
Wearing a red shirt that read “oppose sham impeachment of AG Ken Paxton,” Jacqueline Wasson, a precinct chair for the nearby Denton County Republican Party, shrugged off the accusations Paxton faces.
“I think it's to stop his progress, basically because he's done more than any other AG,” Wasson said.
To David Russell, a precinct chair for the Collin County GOP, the allegations Paxton already were litigated at the ballot box — in Paxton’s favor.
“We voted for him,” Russell said. “We knew all about it then and they want to bring it back up again because it didn't work in the election.”
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