Dan Patrick, Dade Phelan trade potshots after impeachment trial ends

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gives a speech to the Senate after the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Texas Capitol on Sept. 16, 2023.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gives a speech to the Senate after the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Texas Capitol on Sept. 16, 2023. Credit: Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune
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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick broke his personal silence Saturday on Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment after the Senate voted for acquittal, blasting the House’s impeachment process as deeply flawed.

“The speaker and his team rammed through the first impeachment of a statewide official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set in every other impeachment before,” Patrick said from the dais after the verdict was finalized.

House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, fired back, saying Patrick ended the trial by “confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people’s House on full display.”

Patrick was the presiding officer of the trial — effectively the judge — and his feelings on the matter were the subject of much speculation. While he got praise for how he handled certain aspects, like the trial rules, he also drew scrutiny for accepting $3 million from a pro-Paxton group in late June.

Patrick began his remarks by acknowledging he had been “unusually quiet” in recent months because he wanted to respect his role in the process. He followed by unloading on the House for foisting the impeachment upon the Senate on short notice at the end of the regular session.

[Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial escalates Texas Republican civil war]

Patrick mocked House impeachment managers for impressing upon the senators how important their decision was and how they will be remembered for their vote.

“If only the House members who voted for impeachment would’ve followed that instruction in the House, we may not have been here,” Patrick said.

He went on to favorably quote from a speech that Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, gave in May in opposition to the impeachment.

“Hang ‘em now and judge them later,” Smithee said of the House process.

Patrick also called for a state constitutional amendment reforming the impeachment process. He proposed that all House testimony should be given under oath and subject to cross examination, adding that an impeached official “should not be put on unpaid leave” while awaiting trial.

Patrick also said “millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment” and called for a “full audit” of the House’s spending on it.

Phelan responded with a statement that was just as hostile, saying Patrick “attacked the House for standing up against corruption.”

“His tirade disrespects the Constitutional impeachment process afforded to us by the founders of this great state,” Phelan said. “The inescapable conclusion is that today’s outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice.”

There is no love lost between Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, who have previously battled over policy issues. But Patrick’s speech represented a new escalation in their feud and came after he withheld his personal opinion on the impeachment for months, trying to show he was taking the trial seriously.

Like Phelan, Democrats argued it showed he was never a neutral player in the trial.

“Dan Patrick’s aggressive speech revealed that he has been biased against justice from the start of the” trial, the Texas Democratic Party said in a tweet. Patrick “will always choose his friends over the facts.”

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