Ken Paxton Impeachment Goes to the Jury

30 senators deliberate on 16 impeachment articles

Ken Paxton attorney Tony Buzbee on day four of the Ken Paxton impeachment trial (photo by John Anderson)

Following closing arguments Friday morning, the 16 Articles under consideration for the Attorney General Ken Paxton impeachment trial have gone to the jury – that is, to the 30 of 31 state senators who will deliberate in private and then vote publicly whether to convict or acquit Paxton (currently suspended from office) on any one of 16 Articles of Impeachment, which charge him with various allegations of bribery, abuse of office, and obstruction of justice. The senators retired to begin deliberations just before noon; the impeachment rules require a two-thirds vote to convict on any one article, meaning 21 of 31 senators. (Sen. Angela Paxton, his wife, will not vote, but is counted for the purposes of determining two-thirds.)

Paxton was excused from testifying, and was present in Senate chambers only to plead not guilty in the beginning of Day One, and for today’s closing arguments.

In their closing arguments, Paxton’s defense attorneys insisted that none of the charges against Paxton had been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Lead attorney Tony Buzbee argued angrily that Paxton was being required to “prove his innocence,” despite the fact that the entire impeachment was about “nothing,” other than an “internal partisan Republican Party fight” he said was instigated by a faction allied with House Speaker Dade Phelan and former U.S. presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush. “The Bush era in Texas,” Buzbee declared, “ends today.”

In response, attorneys for the House Managers, who brought the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, itemized in detail the charges they had brought against Paxton. They summarized their case that Paxton, under the influence of Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, had used the Office of Attorney General to unethically and illegally assist Paul in attempts to investigate and harass his perceived enemies in law enforcement, the courts, and business. In return, House Managers charged, Paxton had accepted bribes and favors from Paul, including both financial gifts and efforts to facilitate and conceal Paxton’s love affair. When Paxton’s senior staff members (aka “the whistleblowers”) finally reported Paxton’s behavior and potential crimes to the FBI, House Managers charge, they were fired or constructively dismissed from their positions.

In a brief and emotional closing statement, Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, told the Senators he had been a close friend, supporter, and “trusted advisor” of Paxton for many years, but had come to the extremely difficult conclusion that the A.G. had betrayed his oath of office and the state of Texas. He urged the Senators to vote to convict, concluding, “I believe it is right, as painful as it might be, to sustain the articles of impeachment.”

Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick, presiding over the trial, read the 16 Articles aloud and said the senators will deliberate daily until they come to a decision, and if necessary will be sequestered in the Capitol if deliberations continue beyond a few days. He said he did not know how long the deliberations would last, but that he would keep the media and public informed when a return to Senate chambers for voting appeared imminent.

This is an ongoing story, with earlier Chronicle coverage available here. We will continue to follow the story to its conclusions in the Senate.

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More by Michael King
The Exquisite Torments of Ken Paxton
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Ken Paxton, Paxton impeachment, Tony Buzbee

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