Two top Texas Republicans, one conservative and the other moderate, have tossed accusations of drunkenness and corruption back and forth between each other over the past couple of days in a feud that threatens to split the state's Republican Party, the Daily Wire reported.
On one side is conservative Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has accused moderate Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) of being obviously intoxicated on the job, while Phelan has countered that Paxton is corrupt and expressed his support for a legislative investigation of the state's top lawyer.
In a statement issued Tuesday, AG Paxton called upon Speaker Phelan to resign at the end of the current legislative session due to him previously being observed presiding over the House in a "state of apparent debilitating intoxication."
He further accused Phelan of failing at his duties to the public and refusing to "pass critical conservative priorities" that has created a "credibility crisis" for all Republicans across the state. Paxton urged Phelan to seek help but added that "he has proven himself unworthy of Texans' trust and incapable of leading the Texas House."
The attorney general was referencing an incident caught on camera on May 19 when Phelan appeared to many to be drunk and slurring his words while unsteady on his feet as he presided over the conclusion of a session.
According to the Texas Tribune, that swipe against Speaker Phelan from AG Paxton on Tuesday came just hours before it was revealed that the Texas House General Investigating Committee had been secretly probing allegations of corruption against the attorney general.
On Wednesday, the committee had heard several hours of testimony outlining the allegations against Paxton -- primarily that he had used the power and resources of his office to aid a personal friend and donor, as well as that he had fired four employees from his office in retaliation after they raised concerns, along with other years-old allegations of other acts of misconduct.
The committee held another meeting on Thursday that was briefly interrupted by one of Paxton's top aides, Chris Hilton, who demanded an opportunity to deliver testimony in defense of the attorney general but was denied.
"The people deserve to hear from this office in the context of this investigation," Hilton said, per the Tribune. "The voters want Ken Paxton, and this committee -- by investigating him, by not allowing us to be heard here today, by never reaching out to us at any time during this investigative process -- is trying to thwart the will of the voters. We deserve to be heard here today."
The Tribune noted that just a short time after refusing to hear the offered testimony from Hilton on AG Paxton's behalf, the five-member committee took the extraordinary and unprecedented step of voting unanimously to recommend that Paxton be impeached and removed from office.
If the Republican-controlled House -- where Paxton actually has few friends -- votes to impeach him, Texas law requires that Paxton be suspended from office pending the conclusion of a Senate trial.
That said, another provision of Texas law known as the "forgiveness doctrine" has been interpreted by some as prohibiting the removal of officials for alleged misconduct that occurred prior to the most recent election. Given that Paxton was just re-elected in November and all of the allegations predate that election, he could be legally spared from facing impeachment and removal.
The Texas House could hold a vote as soon as Friday on whether or not to move forward with the recommended articles of impeachment against Paxton, who, needless to say, was outraged at what occurred and slammed it as an "illegitimate attempt to overthrow the will of the people" by "corrupted politicians" led by "liberal" Speaker Phelan.