During Donald Trump’s norm-shattering 2016 campaign, he famously promised to “drain the swamp,” referring to the concentration of power and the penchant for corruption among Washington’s political elite and bureaucratic class.
The highlight of this effort was probably when Trump sacked FBI Director James Comey a few months after he became president, ostensibly for botching the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server and leaked emails, though it was really an attempt by Trump—as he admitted—to quash the agency’s investigation into frivolous claims of Russian election interference.
That decision was the tipping point in the events that led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to continue the flawed Russia investigation, which we now know was initiated in response to claims fabricated by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Although the investigation found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and foreign sources, it crippled his administration for nearly two years, which might partly explain Trump’s resistance to firing Anthony Fauci after it became apparent the policies he was pushing in response to COVID-19 were bogus.
Regardless, although the D.C. swamp has been exposed, the monsters living there want to let the American people know they’re still in control, and now they’re coming after Trump and anyone close to him with a vengeance. While the prosecution of the former president has about as much merit as the Kremlin’s efforts to fight corruption, there’s a decent chance Trump is sent to prison or put under house arrest within the next year, and if he’s the GOP nominee, there will be a serious effort in states he needs to win to keep him off the ballot.
Well, the swamp isn’t confined to the nation’s capital. Now, it’s reared its ugly head in deep-red Texas.
While the state has the reputation of being a bastion of conservatism—the state hasn’t awarded its electoral college votes to a Democrat since Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976, no Democrat has won statewide office since 1990, and Republicans have controlled both chambers of the state legislature since 2003—popular conservative policies have been thwarted for years. The mind-boggling reality is that it’s not Democrats who are behind these policy failures, it’s Republicans.
Governor Greg Abbott is no Ron DeSantis, but the real problem is the Texas House of Representatives, where Republicans have empowered Democrats by allowing them to influence the selection of the speaker, who in turn has appointed several Democrats to chair powerful legislative committees controlling which bills get voted on.
Now, the speaker and his allies—both Republicans and Democrats—are attempting to remove Attorney General Ken Paxton from office through the impeachment process, accusing him of abusing the powers of his office to benefit a wealthy campaign donor and wrongfully terminating subordinates who questioned his actions. The allegations stem from a November 2020 whistleblower lawsuit filed by four of these former employees, with whom Paxton’s office agreed to settle for $3.3 million earlier this year.
Paxton’s alleged crimes aren’t the real reason why the Austin political establishment is trying to remove him from office, though.
His real crime is refusing the play the game favored by most politicians—he follows through on what he says he believes, making those who don’t look bad.
He unsuccessfully challenged the incumbent moderate House Speaker in 2011 when he was a member of that body, and he defeated the establishment candidate for attorney general in 2014. Paxton has sued the Biden administration dozens of times over its policies on immigration, vaccines, free speech, and the environment, and he led the effort to contest the 2020 presidential election at the Supreme Court when he sued four swing states for changing their election rules without the approval of state legislators.
Although Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan secretly appointed a committee to begin investigating Paxton in February—when Paxton’s office asked the legislature to fund his settlement with the whistleblowers—the committee met to recommend impeachment charges the day after Paxton called on Phelan to resign for presiding over chamber proceedings while apparently drunk, as a viral video appeared to show.
Of course, Paxton is denying the charges, but their accuracy isn’t really the most consequential consideration in the impeachment proceedings.
Paxton was reelected last year by a margin of 9.8%, fending off three challengers in the primary, including George P. Bush—the son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and then-commissioner of the Texas General Land Office—whom he defeated by 35.9% in a runoff election. During the campaign, Paxton’s challengers repeatedly reminded voters about the allegations against him and argued he lacked the integrity to hold the office.
Unlike the concerted attempts to cover up and dismiss Joe and Hunter Biden’s corrupt foreign business dealings prior to the 2020 election, the press amplified Paxton’s alleged misdeeds incessantly during his reelection campaign. There was ample opportunity for voters to consider the charges and select a different candidate, but nearly 4.3 million of them indicated they preferred to stick with the incumbent.
The Texas House impeached Paxton by a vote of 121-23 on May 27, suspending him from office pending the outcome of a trial in the Texas Senate, which began this week. For Paxton to be removed from office, two-thirds of the Senate’s members (21 of 31) must vote to uphold the charges against him.
In a nutshell, a handful of legislators is attempting to cancel the votes of 4,278,986 citizens.
Talk about undermining democracy.
“Is it up to the voters, or is it up to the politicians to see who stays in office?” Paxton attorney Dan Cogdell asked during the Senate trial’s opening statements.
“We are living on the wet end of democracy right now,” he colorfully asserted.
The Senate is composed of 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Interestingly, one of the members is Paxton’s wife, but she won’t get to vote on her husband’s fate since the Senate passed rules stripping her constituents of a voice in the matter.
(One of the articles of impeachment alleges Paxton provided legal favors to a real estate developer who employed a woman with whom he was having an affair.)
None of the initial motions to dismiss the charges prevailed. The trial is expected to last through the end of the month.
While the outcome is uncertain, one thing is for sure: The swamp won’t go down without a fight.