Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted Saturday of all charges in a historic impeachment trial that has divided Republicans over whether to fire a powerful defender of former President Donald Trump after years of scandal and criminal charges.
The verdict reaffirms Paxton’s hold on America’s biggest red state and is a broader victory for hard-pressed Texas after a rare trial that has caused display fractures within the GOP nationwide heading into the 2024 election. election. In the end, Paxton was completely cleared by Senate Republicans, serving alongside her husband, Sen. Angela Paxton of the state.
Angela Paxton was not allowed to vote. But she attended all two weeks of the trial, including the reading of the verdict, when all but two of her fellow Republican senators continued to vote to acquit her husband of the 16 articles of impeachment that accused him of misconduct, bribery and corruption.
Ken Paxton, who was absent from most of the proceedings, did not attend the verdict but issued a triumphant statement immediately after the verdict, blasting his Republican rivals who impeached him in the Texas House in May.
“Today, the truth prevails. The truth cannot be buried by mud politicians or their powerful benefactors,” Paxton said. “I have said many times: Find the truth! And that was done.”
The Senate also voted to dismiss the four articles of impeachment that were not taken up in the trial. It clears the way for Paxton to regain his role as Texas’ top attorney, more than three months after his stunning impeachment in the Texas House forced him to temporarily step aside.
The outcome was far from the end of Paxton’s problems. He still faces trial on felony securities fraud charges, remains under separate FBI investigation and risks losing his ability to practice law in Texas over his baseless attempts to subvert the 2020 election.
The jury of 30 senators spent about eight hours deliberating behind closed doors before emerging for the historic vote. The Senate is led by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who served as the Texas chairman of Trump’s previous presidential campaigns, and served as the presiding judge for the trial.
Patrick, a former conservative radio host in Houston, said little about the case leading up to the trial but unleashed a scathing attack on the impeachment after it ended. Still sitting at the podium where he presided over the trial, Patrick said the process had been “rammed” in the Texas House and vowed to pursue an amendment to the state constitution to prevent it from happening again.
“Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment,” Patrick said.
In the Senate gallery, among those who took early seats for the impeachment vote were three of Paxton’s former deputies who reported him to the FBI in 2020 and were key witnesses during the impeachment trial of the governors. Chamber. One of them left before the end of the verdict when it became clear that the votes were going to Paxton.
There was no visible reaction from former deputies — David Maxwell, Ryan Vassar and Blake Brickman — after Paxton’s Article 6 acquittal, the whistleblowers concluded.
After the trial ended, Angela Paxton walked over to her husband’s legal team and hugged them before leaving the room.
The trial has plunged Texas Republicans into unfamiliar waters as they grapple with whether to remove Paxton over allegations that he abused his office to protect a political donor who was under FBI investigation.
The trial confronts Paxton, whose three terms in office have been marred by scandal and criminal charges, in a decisive test of his political stamina after a rare impeachment drive by his fellow Republicans and widening party fractures in America’s biggest red state. For nearly a decade, Paxton has raised his national profile by rushing to his polarizing courtroom office against the entire US, winning praise from Donald Trump and the GOP hard right.
Making a final appeal to convict Texas’ top attorney, impeachment managers used their closing arguments Friday to brand him a crook who must go.
“If we don’t prevent public officials from abusing the powers of their office, then no one will,” said Republican state Rep. Andrew Murr, who helped lead the impeachment inquiry in the Texas House, in his closing arguments.
In an angry and defiant denial, Paxton’s attorney Tony Buzbee on Friday unleashed attacks on a wide range of figures inside and outside the Texas Capitol, mocking a Texas Ranger who warned Paxton that he was in danger of prosecution and another accused who cried on the witness stand. stand up
Leaning on divisions among Republicans, Buzbee described the impeachment as a plot orchestrated by an old guard of GOP rivals. He chose George P. Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush to challenge Paxton in the 2022 Republican primary, who delivered a blistering closing argument that questioned the integrity of FBI agents and railed against the most famous political dynasty. of Texas.
“I suggest to you that this is a political witch hunt,” Buzbee said. “I suggest to you that this trial has exposed, for the nation to see, a partisan battle within the Republican Party.”
The case centers on accusations that Paxton misused his office to help one of his donors, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks. Paul did not sin.
Eight of Paxton’s former deputies reported him to the FBI in 2020, setting off a federal investigation that will continue regardless of the verdict. Federal prosecutors investigating Paxton took testimony in August before a grand jury in San Antonio, according to two people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity due to surrounding confidentiality rules. of the trial.
One said the grand jury heard from Drew Wicker, Paxton’s former personal aide. At the impeachment trial, Wicker testified that he once heard a contractor tell Paxton that he needed to check with “Nate” about the cost of renovations to the attorney general’s home in Austin.
In closing arguments, the defense told senators there was no evidence for the charges or that there was not enough to rise beyond a reasonable doubt. House impeachment managers, on the other hand, went through specific documents and played clips of the testimony of deputies who reported Paxton to the FBI.
One of the articles of impeachment centered on an alleged extramarital affair by Paxton with Laura Olson, who worked for Paul. It says that Paul’s hiring of Olson amounts to a bribe. He was called to the witness stand but ultimately did not testify. Another article claims the developer also bribed Paxton by paying for his home renovations.
Paxton faces a range of legal problems despite the impeachment. In addition to the federal investigation for the same allegations that led to his impeachment, he also faces a bar disciplinary hearing over his efforts to subvert the 2020 election and has yet to stand trial on securities fraud charges. of the state in 2015.
He pleaded not guilty in the state’s case, but his attorneys said the dismissal could open the door to a plea deal.