The Texas Senate acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment alleging corruption and bribery.
This outcome marks a significant victory for Paxton, known for a career riddled with controversy and a knack for avoiding the consequences of scandal.
Texas Senate Acquits Attorney General Ken Paxton on All Impeachment Charges
Notably, an article received only 14 of the required 21 votes to convict. Only two of the 19 Republican Senators, Bob Nichols of Jacksonville and Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills voted in favor of conviction on any article.
This contrasted starkly with the more than 70% of House Republicans who had previously voted to impeach Paxton in May.
Paxton, who attended only two days of the trial and was absent when the verdict was delivered, remained characteristically defiant.
In a statement following his dismissal, he accused the Biden Administration and House Speaker Dade Phelan of orchestrating a sham impeachment that cost taxpayers millions and disrupted the work of his office.
He condemned the weaponization of the impeachment process for settling political scores, labeling it immoral and corrupt.
Allegations and Testimonies
The two-week trial featured a parade of witnesses, including former senior officials under Paxton, who testified to the Attorney General’s repeated abuse of office.
They claimed Paxton had assisted his friend, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, in investigations and harassment of his enemies, delayed foreclosure sales of Paul’s properties, and obtained confidential records related to investigations against him.
In return, House impeachment managers alleged that Paul had paid for renovations to Paxton’s Austin home and helped him carry out and cover up an extramarital affair with a former Senate aide.
However, despite the compelling testimonies, senators ultimately remained unpersuaded.
Senator Royce West emphasized that acquittal was not a foregone conclusion during the eight hours of deliberation.
Some Republicans who initially supported conviction reportedly changed their votes when it became clear that the required two-thirds support was lacking.
The not-guilty verdicts immediately put an end to Paxton’s automatic suspension following the House’s impeachment vote in May.
This outcome marked the failure of a risky gambit by House Republicans who had initiated an investigation into an impeachment of one of their own party’s leaders.
The Senate’s decision followed sustained pressure from grassroots groups, conservative activists, and the state Republican Party leader, who had promised retribution at the ballot box if Paxton were convicted.
Adding a unique dimension to the trial, Paxton’s wife, Senator Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, was present to witness her husband’s acquittal.
She was required to attend but prohibited from deliberating and voting due to her relationship with the accused.
Throughout the trial, she maintained a stoic demeanor as multiple witnesses detailed her husband’s infidelity, undermining his previous claim in 2018 that the affair was permanently over.
After the acquittal, she hugged Tony Buzbee, Paxton’s lead lawyer, and shook hands with the defense team.
The Senate voting process took over an hour, with the chamber mostly silent except for the chirping of crickets that had recently infested the Capitol.
The House impeachment managers watched helplessly as each meticulously prepared article of impeachment was rejected.
The Senate also voted 19-11 to dismiss the remaining four articles of impeachment related to Paxton’s long-running securities fraud case, which is set to go to trial early next year.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who had served as an impartial judge throughout the proceedings, criticized the House and its leadership for initiating the impeachment case, which he deemed a waste of millions of taxpayer dollars.
He expressed disdain for the lower chamber’s quick vote to impeach Paxton after just three days of consideration.
While Paxton may have escaped impeachment, his legal troubles are far from over. He still faces trial on charges of securities fraud dating back to 2015.
However, the more pressing concern for Paxton is a federal investigation initiated when his senior aides reported him to the FBI in 2020, alleging crimes that align with the impeachment charges.
This case has now reached a grand jury in San Antonio, carrying significantly higher stakes than impeachment. Paxton’s journey to remain in office is one challenge, but his battle to avoid prison is another.