Texas Senators Vote to Continue Paxton's Impeachment Trial

Suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pleaded not guilty to the accusations outlined in the articles of impeachment, alongside his attorneys Tony Buzbee and Dan Cogdell.
Suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pleaded not guilty to the accusations outlined in the articles of impeachment, alongside his attorneys Tony Buzbee and Dan Cogdell. Screenshot
Given repeated chances to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Ken Paxton Tuesday, a majority of senators, including ones from both parties, rejected motions to do so, ensuring the trial of the suspended attorney general will go forward.

The senators acting as jurors first took up 16 of the 24 pretrial motions. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick – who presides over the Senate impeachment proceedings – said he would rule on the remaining eight motions from Paxton's lawyers.

Patrick did rule that Paxton could not be compelled to testify during the proceeding.

Mark Jones, professor of political science at Rice University, said the majority of senators who rejected the "money votes" or the two pretrial motions that asked the Senate to dismiss all 20 articles of impeachment and any of Paxton’s alleged misconduct that occurred before his last election gave a good indication of how impeachment proceedings would play out.

Although the House impeachment managers led by Representative Andrew Murr (R-Junction) initially brought forth 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton, the Senate will only vote on 16 at the end of the trial.

The remaining four articles investigated Paxton's actions as attorney general related to his ongoing criminal case in Harris County over securities fraud charges. They may be voted on later during Senate proceedings.

"At the end of the day, the prosecution just needs one of these articles of impeachment to stick," Jones said. "I think if the Republicans were going to get around it, they would have gotten around it today," he said.
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Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and former Justice Lana Myers, who will be assisting Patrick in presiding over the Senate were sworn in Tuesday morning.
Despite Paxton’s legal team's efforts to avert the impeachment trial, all of the Democratic senators and seven Republican senators including Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton), Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston), Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) and Drew Springer (R-Muenster) voted against each motion to dismiss.

Paxton did see some support from other GOP Senators who mostly voted in favor of the pretrial motions, as six voted to quash the impeachment articles entirely, which would've blocked the chance for the attorney general to face removal from office.

According to Jones, Paxton's testimony, or lack thereof, likely won't affect the case. He said if anything, it saves the attorney general and his spouse, Senator Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), from any embarrassment.

Jones also said Paxton's not testifying will protect him against future possible ramifications in his ongoing legal troubles.

Tony Buzbee, Paxton’s lead defense attorney, spoke on behalf of the attorney general – despite Paxton being present – pleading not guilty to all of the accusations outlined in the articles of impeachment as they were read aloud by the clerk of the court and Senate secretary Patsy Spaw.

Although Paxton remained silent, Buzbee responded to each article, referring to the allegations detailed as “flat-out false,” “offensive” and “all wrong.”

Rusty Hardin, one of the lead prosecutors alongside Dick DeGuerin for the House’s impeachment managers, objected to Buzbee’s “speeches” and requested that if Paxton wanted to speak through his attorney, he should testify.

Patrick sustained Hardin’s objection, and Buzbee refrained from making further additional comments.

Paxton was noticeably absent from the Senate floor after an afternoon break. Hardin asked where the attorney general was, and Buzbee told Patrick, per procedural rules, he had not thought Paxton needed to be present after the morning.

Patrick agreed with Buzbee’s interpretation of the order. He declared that Paxton did not have to be present despite Hardin’s request that he follow the structure of a trial court criminal proceeding – although it is an impeachment case – which would require the defendant to be present.

Jones said Paxton may make additional appearances but he will likely base his in-person appearances around what Buzbee and his other defense attorney, Dan Cogdell, suggested for his best interest.

After the afternoon break, the House impeachment managers were first up with their opening statements. Murr represented the managers and took 17 minutes of the hour allotment to state their case.

Murr focused his statements on the whistleblowers, a group of high-ranking former officials of the Texas Attorney General’s Office who later resigned or were terminated after they brought the accusations outlined in the articles of impeachment to light and reported the attorney general to the authorities.

These claims include Paxton accepting bribes from Nate Paul, a close friend and political donor, in exchange for legal assistance, among other abuses of offices.

Murr said their testimony would provide insight that these allegations are only a small part of Paxton’s pattern of illicit behavior and that the choice of the former employees to report was the “hardest of their lives” while at the same time “not a choice at all.”

“The witnesses will explain to you that Mr. Paxton’s actions have nothing to do with implementing conservative policy, and in fact, his efforts violated those very principles,” Murr said.
After concluding, Buzbee, accompanied by Cogdell, took close to the entire hour for rebuttal and to build their own case.
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Representative Andrew Murr, chair of the House impeachment managers described the accusations against Paxton as the standard behavior of the state official.
Buzbee began calling the prosecution that Paxton had faced in the press and that he would likely face in the Senate as a “whopping story” and “a tale full of sound and fury” that signified nothing.

According to Buzbee, the gag order issued by Patrick prevented their legal team from rejecting claims that “reporters with agendas” made — detailing Paxton's use of burner phones, secret email addresses, and a fake Uber account to visit both Paul and Laura Olson, whom Paxton allegedly had an extramarital affair with.

The well-known attorney said all these accusations are false, alongside the claims that Paxton released documents that would benefit Paul, who was under federal investigation in exchange for house renovations and employment for Olson.

“Ken Paxton gave nothing of significance to Nate Paul; Nate Paul received nothing of significance from Ken Paxton,” Buzbee said. “This whole case is a whole lot of nothing.”

Buzbee said Paxton’s defense team plans to present evidence in photos and documents that disprove these allegations and show that the Paxtons paid for the renovations called into question.

Cogdell echoed Buzbee’s statements and told senators that Paul did not receive a single document due to Paxton’s actions. He said other documents were released to the real estate investor, but none because of the attorney general’s efforts.

Cogdell doubled down and said no documents that Paxton had were illegally acquired as he was serving as acting attorney general at the time. There was no proof that Paxton copied or handed any of these documents to Paul.

He referred to two potential witnesses that could testify, David Maxwell and Drew Wicker, one of the whistleblowers and Paxton’s former executive assistant, respectively. Cogdell said the claims made by Maxwell that Paxton gave Wicker a file to deliver to Paul in an alley at night were “absolutely false” and “either a mistake or a lie” that never occurred.

The Senate only heard from one witness during the first day of impeachment proceedings. Jeff Mateer, Paxton’s former second-in-command and one of the whistleblowers who reported him but did not pursue legal action against the attorney general, took the stand.

While testifying, Mateer answered Hardin, who asked him questions concerning his political background and stance.

Mateer told Hardin he was not a RINO – Republican in name only – and said that descriptor did not reflect any officials who worked in the attorney general’s office when the allegations against Paxton were brought forward.

Patrick had previously stated that proceedings would go until 6 p.m. – if not later into the evening. However, arguments between the prosecutors and defense attorneys over which documents could be presented as evidence ended the day's questioning around 5 p.m.

Patrick said both legal teams would work into the evening to decide which documents would be entered into evidence.

This comes after Paxton’s attorneys cited that attorney-client privilege meant that some documents could be withheld as they displayed communication between Paxton and lawyers who worked for him at the time.

Patrick said he would issue a ruling on the matter first thing on Wednesday morning, and that Mateer would likely be back on the stand for continued questioning.

Patrick announced at the start of Senate proceedings on Tuesday that the Senate would convene every day at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, except this week because of the Labor Day Holiday and next week when proceedings may extend to Saturday.

He said the trial would break every 90 minutes for the prosecutors and attorneys and around noon every day for lunch. According to Patrick, impeachment proceedings will likely last several weeks up to a month.
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.