Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton pleaded not guilty Tuesday but had all motions to dismiss rejected at his impeachment trial in the state Senate.
The GOP-led state House voted in May to impeach Paxton and suspend him pending trial after its Investigative Committee unanimously ruled to issue 20 articles of impeachment against the Attorney General.
The issuance of the articles, which include bribery, unfitness for office, disregard of official duty and abuse of public trust, comes as Paxton is under an FBI investigation for corruption.
He is accused of using his office to assist a donor. Real estate executive Nate Paul was arrested and booked in June in Austin on an undisclosed felony charge. Paul is reportedly among some 100 potential witnesses who’ve been subpoenaed to testify at the state Senate trial.
Paxton’s defense attorney has said his client will not testify on his own behalf at the Senate trial, though Paxton did plead not guilty to what was ultimately 16 articles of impeachment against him Tuesday.
Paxton’s attorneys had filed more than a dozen motions to dismiss the articles of impeachment or exclude evidence from being considered, and all of them failed Tuesday morning. Some dozen Republican Senators joined with the Democratic Senators to vote against the defense team’s motions.
During opening arguments Tuesday, Paxton defense attorney Dan Cogdell asserted that the voters of Texas had already made their decision—reelecting Paxton despite the allegations hanging over him.
“Is it up to the voters or is it up to politicians to see who stays in office?” Codgell asked the roomful of state Senators.
But the prosecution in its opening statement had already addressed that argument. State Rep. Andrew Murr (R) pushed back on claims that Paxton can’t be impeached for conduct that predated his most recent election.
“Wrongs justifying impeachment don’t have to be crimes,” Murr further argued. “Wrongs justifying the impeachment are broader than that because they have the purpose of protecting the state, not punishing the offender.”
The first witness to testify at the trial was evangelical Christian attorney Jeff Mateer, who’s been Paxton’s second-in-command in the Attorney General’s office and described himself politically far-right. He testified that during a meeting Paxton, he “urged him not to have any further dealings with Nate Paul.”
Mateer’s testimony was cut short over a dispute about exhibits. He was expected to return to continue testifying on Wednesday.
Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton is a state senator. The GOP-controlled state Senate has barred her from from voting in the impeachment trial of her husband, which is scheduled to begin on September 5.
Along with the state legislators’ investigation, Paxton is also facing a criminal trial for alleged securities fraud. If convicted of those charges, Paxton faces up to 99 years in prison.