The Jan. 6 morning President Donald Trump urged his supporters to head to the Capitol, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, one of the president’s de facto lawyers, spoke at a rally in support of Trump and added his kindling to the bonfire: “What we have in President Trump is a fighter. And I think that’s why we’re all here,” Paxton said to attendees that morning. “We will not quit fighting. We’re Texans, we’re Americans, and the fight will go on.” Four hours later the Capitol was breached.
The rioters scaled marble walls; they smashed windows to gain entry. They carried the Confederate battle flag into the United States Capitol. The secessionist standard originated during the Civil War, but it never entered the Capitol during that time or since — until Jan. 6. The mob filched memorabilia of their occupation, including an attempt at taking the carved wooden podium bearing the seal of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick was killed by the mob.
Paxton’s moment was several days in the making. Two days before the mob broke through the Capitol’s barriers Paxton advertised on his Twitter account that he was “confirmed” to attend a “March to Save America” and that “all patriots need to be present to stand with President Trump.” The day before the riot, Paxton tweeted: “Someday they will say that on Jan 6, 2021 ‘some people did a thing’ … those people were Patriots and what they did was save a nation.”
Over the last four years Americans became accustomed to such charged rhetoric. We always let it go. After the events of Jan. 6 we can no longer ignore inciting language. The First Amendment protects all kinds of ill-mannered speech, but the Bill of Rights doesn’t preclude political repercussions for elected leaders who know better than to encourage rioting.
The Texas Legislature convened on Tuesday, and the Texas House should immediately use its constitutional power of impeachment to suspend Paxton from office for his outrageous behavior which includes encouraging violence at the United States Capitol, filing frivolous litigation in the United States Supreme Court weeks before the riot, firing his office’s whistleblowing leadership, exposing Texas taxpayers to costly judgments and private attorneys fees, and his alleged activities in using his office to support his major political donor Nate Paul. The Dallas Morning News reports that two sources told the newspaper that Paxton has admitted to having an affair with an aide later hired by Paul.
But the worst of it was Paxton’s behavior the morning of Jan. 6. Instead of tending to his duties in Texas, Paxton knowingly aided Trump’s ambition to overturn a presidential election. And in a decidedly un-Texan, cowardly refusal to take responsibility for his extremely poor judgment, Paxton now, in a masterpiece of avoidance, claims the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol was, he assured us, actually antifa rioters. That’s insulting to us all. That’s shameful. Paxton is no longer to be trusted to perform the duties of the Office of the Texas Attorney General.
I acknowledge that Trump’s election and presidency voiced a serious complaint among the American electorate, a discontentment we as a people need to understand and resolve democratically and constitutionally. My problem with career politicians like Ken Paxton is that they are not trying to resolve the voters’ concerns; they are satisfied with capitalizing on their grievances for personal and political gain. Enough is enough.