Editor's note: This story has been updated again with attorney Rusty Hardin's response following Tony Buzbee's press conference. See below.
Editor's note: This story has been updated after Tony Buzbee's Wednesday afternoon press conference. See below.
Tony Buzbee will lead Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s defense team, representing the now-suspended attorney general and is the third high-profile Houston lawyer to be a part of the impeachment trial.
Buzbee initially took to Instagram on Friday evening to announce that he would be defending Paxton. However, shortly after the social media post was deleted and no further comments were made by the attorney.
On Tuesday, Buzbee addressed the matter, returning to Instagram and said he would be holding a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to provide further detail regarding the “fatally flawed impeachment.”
He said his team hopes for a “fair, reasoned and transparent” process in the Texas Senate, according to the social media post.
This is not the first time that Buzbee will be defending a Texas politician, as he was part of the team that represented former Governor Rick Perry when he was indicted in 2014 for abuse of office for threatening to veto funding for the public integrity unit of the Travis County district attorney’s office.
He faces Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin, two other prominent local attorneys that were appointed to be lead prosecutors for the House in the case against Paxton last week.
Buzbee went head-to-head with Hardin in the case regarding sexual harassment and assault allegations made against then-Houston Texas quarterback Deshaun Watson by more than two dozen women.
The lawyer also ran for public office in 2019 against now-Mayor Sylvester Turner and lost.
The Senate announced they will meet to set the rules of the trial on June 20. There is no exact start date yet, but it is set to begin before August 28.
Members of this chamber will decide the politician's fate after reviewing the 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton address alleged abuses of office including accepting bribes, assisting political donor Nate Paul and misspending office funds.
Update 4:45 p.m.
Buzbee called the House’s action of passing the articles of impeachment to initiate a trial in the Senate against Paxton “shameful and despicable” behavior not rooted in a legal or fair process at a press conference held on Wednesday afternoon.
Buzbee, who is the lead legal defense attorney on the case against Paxton, said the timing of the process – less than 72 hours – could not permit those involved to decide based on any real evidence.
“The process here is not just suspect, it’s clearly flawed, it’s wrong, it was absolutely non-existent,” he said. “Speaker Dade Phelan and his followers in the Texas House could have easily determined that the allegations that were being made were false – easily could’ve determined them to be false – if they just bothered to look at the evidence. But I don’t really think they wanted the facts; they didn’t want the truth to be heard.”
Buzbee called the “sham” impeachment instead a long-term plan to remove one of the major conservative voices in Texas.
He said there was no way that the Senate would convict Paxton based on the evidence collected and the fact that allegations are completely untrue.
And if they do, Buzbee and Dan Cogdell – the most recent addition to Paxton’s legal defense team – are “girded up” for a fight.
According to Buzbee, they have already identified 66 witnesses to testify and have thousands of documents to build their case. He said it may take time, but they are willing to challenge the Senate if it does not reach a resolution quickly.
Cogdell, who is also representing Paxton in a separate state securities fraud case, called out the investigators hired by the House’s Committee on General Investigating claiming that they did not give Paxton or his team the ability to defend themselves.
He said they had time to interview Brian Wice, the special prosecutor in Paxton’s state criminal case, but would not interview the suspended attorney general, anyone from his team or his legal representation, Cogdell said.
Although Cogdell paid his respects to the prosecutors he would be facing during the trial, Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin, he said their claims that Paxton’s situation is not about politics – were nonsense.
“To say this case is not about politics has the credibility, believability and the sincerity of a fellow that’s trying to convince his wife that he goes to the strip joint for the food – it’s not about the naked women sweetheart, it’s about the food – nonsense,” Cogdell said. “It’s definitionally political nonsense.”
Cogdell said what he wants is absolute transparency, opportunity to be heard, opportunity to cross examine and opportunity to present witness – because that didn’t happen before the House, he said.
Both lawyers took time to point out initial inconsistencies from the House’s probe into Paxton, displaying receipts they had to challenge what they said were inaccurate claims within the articles of impeachment that Nate Paul – a political donor and friend of Paxton – had paid for kitchen remodeling in exchange for political favors.
Buzbee said the way he wanted them to proceed is for the Senate to prepare a written report and submit that report. He then claimed that this report should be “dismissed summarily.”
“We plan to follow whatever process we were given; we would urge the Senate to follow the rules of evidence and the rules of procedure,” Buzbee said. “Because if the rules of evidence had been followed, if procedure had been followed, we all wouldn’t be here in this room now.”
Update 7:45 a.m. 6-8-23
Rusty Hardin released a statement following Buzbee’s press conference:
We are delighted that Mr. Paxton’s lawyers have endorsed our request that there be a full, transparent trial in the Senate. We are pleased to hear that they have endorsed allowing both sides to present live testimony, offer the introduction of all relevant documents, and permit each side to cross examine the opposing side’s witnesses. We are particularly delighted to hear that they want Mr. Paxton to be able to appear before the jury in the Senate so that he is able to publicly defend his conduct.
We would point out that contrary to the contentions of Mr. Paxton’s lawyers, there were considerably more witnesses interviewed than the 15 they cite, and this was not a rushed 72-hour process, but one that resulted after months of investigation. There was a fully public presentation by Investigators to the Committee that laid out the evidence against Mr. Paxton, and all of that information was made available to the full House several days before the hearing on impeachment in the House.
It is important to remember that this entire journey examining Mr. Paxton’s conduct in office began when four of his most senior staff members gave sworn statements to law enforcement alleging multiple acts of official misconduct by Paxton. After that occurred, and after Mr. Paxton agreed to settle these allegations for $3.3 Million, a two-month-long investigation was conducted by the House General Investigating Committee. Then, and only then, did we get to where we are now.
Additionally, the House impeachment proceedings were analogous to a grand jury proceeding. They were designed simply to decide whether these serious allegations merited being presented to the Senate in a full-blown trial. That is all the House has decided so far. All of the due process, transparency, and presentation of evidence that his lawyers are concerned about will be observed in a trial before the Senate.
Personal blustery attacks on the Committee, the Investigators, House members, and the House lawyers will not change the truth. That will be determined by the trial before the Senate that both sides have now fully endorsed.
As for assessing the quality and accuracy of Mr. Buzbee’s and Mr. Cogdell’s presentation today, we respectfully suggest that folks look at the opening statement by Joe Pesci in the movie “My Cousin Vinny.”