Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton acquitted of all 16 impeachment articles following dramatic trial
Suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is in an impeachment trial over corruption allegations involving a donor and a mistress.
The Republican was accused of using his powerful office to help protect Austin-based real estate developer Nate Paul, who was indicted in June on false statements and is under an FBI investigation.
Paul employed Laura Olson, the woman who allegedly had an affair with the married Paxton and whose testimony was dramatically canceled just before she was to take the stand.
Paul also once gave Paxton a $25,000 campaign contribution. He has pleaded not guilty.
Paxton’s wife, Senator Angela Paxton, attended the trial this week, but the Senate ruled she could not vote to help determine her husband’s fate.
Six former Paxton employees testified against their boss at the trial.
Suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sits among his lawyers on the ninth day of the impeachment trial
Paul employed Laura Olson (above), the woman who allegedly had an affair with the married Paxton and whose testimony was dramatically canceled just before she was about to take the stand
It was just one of several stunning moments when Paxton’s former chief of staff, Katherine Cary, testified about the toll the alleged affair took on the AG’s staff.
“I told General Paxton very bluntly that it was none of my business who he slept with, but when things spill over in the office and in state work, it becomes my business,” she testified this week.
“Just because someone is having an affair doesn’t mean they’re a – quote – ‘criminal’, right?” Paxton attorney Tony Buzbee asked in response to her testimony.
“Imagine if we impeached everyone in Austin who had an affair,” Buzbee added. “We would be ripping people off for the next hundred years.”
Trump this week accused the “RINOS establishment” of trying to “overturn that election with an embarrassing impeachment,” and denounced the case brought against his ally by the state’s Republican House.
“Who would replace Paxton, one of the STRONGEST and BEST attorneys general in the country?” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. “Could it be a Democrat, or worse, a RINO? The voters have decided who they want! The Democrats are feeling very good right now as they, as usual, watch the Republicans fight and eat away at each other. It’s a sad day in the great state of Texas!’
Senators began their deliberations Friday after closing arguments from the bipartisan group of House managers who prosecuted Paxton and attorneys for the attorney general.
The Republican was accused of using his powerful office to help protect Austin-based real estate developer Nate Paul, who was indicted in June on false statements.
State Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, blows kisses toward the gallery before the impeachment trial for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, her husband
“We uncovered unprecedented abuse in the Texas Attorney General’s office by Mr. Paxton,” said state Rep. Andrew Murr, a Republican. “He betrayed us, and the people of Texas.”
In a fiery defense, Paxton attorney Tony Buzbee insisted the House had failed to prove their case and called the impeachment a “political witch hunt.”
“There’s shame here, and the shame is there,” Buzbee said, pointing to the prosecution table. “That they would bring this case to this room without evidence.”
A look at what’s happened so far and what’s yet to come:
The Republican impeachment managers of the House of Representatives and Paxton’s defense team were each given 24 hours to present evidence over the past two weeks.
The House of Representatives managers spent their time methodically laying out their corruption case.
An initial witness list of more than 100 names was reduced to about 20.
Most were former assistants of Paxton who distrusted his business relationship with Paul and his romantic relationship with Laura Olson, who worked for Paul.
They shared their concerns about Paxton’s efforts to help Paul, about the burning of telephones, and about who paid for the kitchen countertops in Paxton’s renovation project.
They talked about taking their concerns to the FBI and how Paxton’s extramarital affair might explain why Paxton seemed so determined to help Paul fend off the federal investigation that would ultimately lead to Paul’s fraud indictment.
“I witnessed Attorney General Ken Paxton do shameless things on behalf of Nate Paul. He abused the entire office of the Attorney General of Texas in favor of Nate Paul,” said former Deputy Attorney General Blake Brickman, “and it just kept getting worse and worse.”
Defense attorneys called four of Paxton’s current employees, who said they saw Paxton do nothing wrong and that they are proud to work for him.
The dramatic moment the trial didn’t get: Olson’s testimony. The relationship was considered central to the bribery charge. Olson came to the Capitol on Wednesday and was called as a witness, but ultimately was not required to testify.
Olson’s departure made for a potentially dramatic afternoon as she did not face public questions about the relationship on television while Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, sat in the room.
Ken Paxton returned to the trial Friday for the first time since opening day and listened to closing arguments. He was not required to attend the proceedings.
THE SENATE JURY
The Texas Constitution appointed the 31-member Senate as the jury for the impeachment trial; they all had to be present.
Thirty determined the fate of Ken Paxton.
Angela Paxton was not allowed to vote or participate in the deliberations because of her conflict of interest as the attorney general’s wife.
A two-thirds majority, or 21 votes, of the 31 members present is required for a conviction. Anything less than that means acquittal.
Early voting on the first day of the trial did not go Paxton’s way. His attempts to dismiss all charges before the evidence was heard were rejected, with most by a 21-vote margin.
But those early votes also showed that Paxton had the support of at least six Republicans, who could spur others to join them.
Paxton has become a darling among conservatives nationwide as he supported Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory and filed numerous lawsuits against the Biden administration.
Like Trump, Paxton has claimed he was the victim of a politically motivated investigation.
His lawyers have even suggested a Republican plot to oust him.
Paxton’s impeachment has fractured the Republican Party of Texas. A Republican-majority House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him, with Republican House managers largely leading the prosecution.
Paxton is only the third state official to be impeached in Texas’ nearly 200-year history, and the first statewide officeholder since former Gov. James “Pa” Ferguson in 1917, who resigned the day before he was convicted.