After more than two decades in the Texas House, Rep. Charlie Geren of Fort Worth is at the center of a rare moment in Texas history as a principal figure in the impeachment case against Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The 73-year-old Republican lawmaker not only serves on the five-member House General Investigating Committee that brought the impeachment articles, but he delivered one of the most dramatic moments of the four-hour-proceeding on Saturday with his disclosure that “several members of this House” received calls from Paxton “personally threatening them with political consequence in the next election.”
The House voted 121-23 to uphold the 20 impeachment articles, sending the case to a trial in the Senate. The last impeachments in Texas were against a district judge in 1975 and a sitting governor in 1917.
Paxton supporters, including loyalists of former President Trump, have angrily denounced the decision, vowing political retaliation against House Speaker Dade Phelan and members of the committee, including Geren. But the Fort Worth House member is standing firm.
“The committee did the right thing, and I’m willing to stand behind it,” Geren said as he was interviewed Sunday outside the House chamber, displaying his characteristic flashes of dry humor.
AUSTIN – To Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Arlington, one of the two Tarrant County House members who opposed the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, the historic action on the…
At least one House member has recommended that Geren’s disclosure of threatening phone calls be added to the articles of impeachment.
“I don’t think that we’ll be adding anything to articles of impeachment,” Geren said. “There’s a trial coming up. A lot of things will come out.”
Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, said Geren’s disclosure of Paxton’s threats of potential retaliation about members “was extremely significant” and in keeping with Geren’s reputation “to do what he thinks is right, despite the party politics.”
“To recognize that the attorney general was willing to strong arm members, I think goes to why this process had to be kept under wraps…before we brought it out to discuss publicly,” she said.
One of Geren’s Republican colleagues in Tarrant County colleagues, Rep. Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth, also raised the possibility that Geren’s disclosure about Paxton’s phone calls could be added to the impeachment articles, saying “it was Important for the public to know that was happening.” Klick voted in favor of impeachment.
Asked about the potential outcome in the Texas Senate, Geren added, “I haven’t had any conversations with any members of the Senate. They’re on the other side of the door.”
Geren, who was elected to the House in 2000 and ranks ninth in seniority, acknowledged that Paxton’s impeachment is the most dramatic event of his more than two decades in the Legislature, noting that the last impeachment, that of South Texas Judge O.P. Carrillo, took place a quarter-century before he entered the House.
The senior Republican, who was elected as House Speaker Pro Tempore at the outset of the legislative session, strongly defended the House leadership’s decision to investigate Paxton and dispute the attorney general’s accusation that he was being victimized by Phelan, whom he derided as a “liberal.”
“You can look at the last session and this session,” Geren said. “They’ve been very conservative sessions under Speaker Phelan’s leadership.”
He said the attorney general’s verbal assault on the Republican speaker shows that Paxton is “in a very defensive mode.”
Geren said “he had no idea this would be something that was coming in front of us” when Speaker Phelan appointed him to the general investigating committee, composed of three Republicans and two Democrats. The committee also investigated allegations of wrongdoing against then-Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City, who was forced to resign from the House after the committee found that he had sex with a 19-year-old aide to whom he also provided alcohol.
The investigation against Paxton would not have occurred if the attorney general had not asked lawmakers to use state funds to pay for a $3.3 million whistleblowers settlement against former aides who accused him of misconduct, Geren said.
“I’ve never been in favor of using taxpayer money to pay for somebody else’s mistake,” Geren said.
“We hired a very competent team of attorneys and investigators to look into all of the allegations,” said the Fort Worth lawmaker. “And they did very extensive interviews and reports back to us and that transcript was available … to everybody.”
Geren acknowledged that the impeachment was filled with historical significance.
“It’s a big decision,” Geren noted. “But that’s why I get paid $19.72 every day.”
Was it one of emotion?
“I’m not a very emotional guy,” he said.