Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton escapes impeachment over corruption charges

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been acquitted on 16 impeachment articles brought before the state Senate.

A jury of 30 state senators, comprised of 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats, voted to acquit Mr Paxton on the articles accusing him of on abuse of power, bribery and other charges on Saturday morning.

Mr Paxton, who was elected to attorney general in 2015, will now go back to his office after none of the articles received the necessary two-thirds majority vote for conviction.

The Texas House impeached Mr Paxton in May on 20 articles - four of which were not voted on by the Senate on Saturday but were then dismissed in a follow-up vote.

The impeachment effort stemmed from accusations, brought forth by his former staffers, that Mr Paxton abused his power to benefit himself and a Texas real estate investor. They alleged that Mr Paxton gave the real estate investor special treatment in exchange for help paying for home renovations and engaging in an extramarital affair.

In the Senate trial, prosecutors and the defence spent nine days in the senate chambers presenting evidence and witness testimony in a historic trial that generated controversy among hard-right conservatives.

Mr Paxton, an ally of Donald Trump, received support from right-wing politicians like senator Ted Cruz and representative Marjorie Taylor Greene throughout the impeachment process who claimed the trial was a “travesty” and “witch hunt.”

Mr Trump backed Mr Paxton, calling the impeachment “shameful” and accusing “RINO” Texas officials of pursuing the trial for political reasons only.

Tony Buzbee, Mr Paxton’s cartoonish attorney, echoed the sentiments, claiming the impeachment allegations were “a joke” and insisted the prosecution had not proved the accusations beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defence attorney Tony Buzbee listens to testimony during the impeachment trial (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Defence attorney Tony Buzbee listens to testimony during the impeachment trial (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The prosecution, meanwhile, relied on witness testimony from ex-staffers, some of whom acted as whistleblowers in bringing forth the allegations, to argue that Mr Paxton accepted bribes, misappropriated public resources, made false statements and more.

Prosecutors said Mr Paxton gave the real estate investor and donor Nate Paul, who was indicted in June on federal fraud charges, special treatment like providing extravagant assistance to Mr Paul’s minor legal matters.

Prosecutors said in exchange for the legal assistance, Mr Paul gave Mr Paxton benefits like providing paid-for home renovations and employing the woman whom Mr Paxton had an extramarital affair with.

Former staffers for Mr Paxton described how Mr Paxton’s affair impacted their office by making some people work overtime and others worry about ethical implications.

Throughout the proceedings, Mr Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton, sat in the chambers and heard testimony from witnesses who testified about her husband’s affair.

Ms Paxton is a member of the Texas senate and thus was required to be present for the impeachment trial proceedings, however, she was barred from voting due to her conflict of interest.

Mr Paxton is only the third Texas elected official to be impeached - in the House - in the state’s history. The last time a Texas official was impeached was 1917.