Ken Paxton acquitted in Texas impeachment trial

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A jury of state senators voted to acquit Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on all of the 16 articles of impeachment he faced in his historic trial.

None of the articles of impeachment received the 21 votes needed to convict Paxton, meaning the Lone Star State’s top law enforcement officer — who had been suspended from his post since the House impeached him in May — will be reinstated to office.

A conviction on even one of the articles would have resulted in Paxton’s ouster.

Paxton had been accused of misusing his office to benefit a real estate developer, Nate Paul, his friend and campaign donor. The House impeachment managers called multiple former Paxton aides to testify about their concerns regarding the attorney general’s relationship with Paul, while the defense called forth current AG employees to counter that narrative.

The decision comes after eight days of witness testimony and another day of closing arguments. Jurors deliberated in private into Friday night and came together again on Saturday to cast their votes on each article in public on the Senate floor, without debate.

No more than 14 state senators voted to convict on any of the 16 articles considered, with just two of 19 Republican senators — Kelly Hancock and Robert Nichols — joining Democrats to convict on some of the counts.

When the Republican-majority House impeached Paxton in May, the vote was 121-31 to impeach.

Unlike a normal jury, the senators did not have to reach a group decision, but each decided on the articles in what presiding Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called “like 16 trials in one.”

Paxton’s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, was ineligible to vote in her husband’s impeachment, but was present throughout the impeachment proceedings, as witnesses took the stand to discuss her husband’s dealings with Paul and his alleged extramarital affair.

State Rep. Jeff Leach (R), one of the House impeachment managers, said in closings that “there comes a time for each of us … not to ask yourself what is safe, or popular, or politic, but what is right,” and implored the jurors to sustain the articles of impeachment.

But Paxton’s defense attorney Tony Buzbee in his argument contended the case was brought forward as “political witch hunt” against Paxton.

“What is this case about? It’s about nothing,” Buzbee said.

“They assumed that this man would run and hide,” Buzbee said, pointing at Paxton. “They assumed that Attorney General Ken Paxton would resign. Well, guess what? He did not resign. He is proud and is ready to go back to work. And after this is over, I expect he will go back to work.”

After the votes, Patrick, said he’d been quiet during the trial but wanted to “set the full record straight on this trial” and proceeded to knock the state House for its handling of the impeachment, arguing the lawmakers “rammed through” the case.

“With all due respect to the House, we didn’t need to be told in the final arguments how important this vote was…Our members already knew that and have known that for the last three months. If only the House members who voted for impeachment would have followed that instruction in the House, we may not have been here,” Patrick said.

He said he plans to call for a full audit of the costs to Texas taxpayers of the impeachment process by the House.

“Our founders expected better,” Patrick said, adding that the impeachment “should have never happened this year. And hopefully it doesn’t again, unless we address this in the Constitution.”

The Texas GOP said in a statement after the acquittal that House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) and his leadership team “should be embarrassed for putting Texas through the time and expense of this political sham of an impeachment.”

— Updated 2:34 p.m.

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