A jury of 30 Texas state Senators voted Saturday to acquit Attorney General Ken Paxton following a more-than weeklong impeachment trial.
A conviction required a two-thirds majority, or 21 votes. Republicans hold a 19-12 Senate majority. Democrats would have needed nine Republicans to join all of them in securing a guilty verdict. However, only two Republican state Senators—Robert Nichols and Kelly Hancock—joined all 12 Democrats in voting to convict.
The trial began on September 6 after the GOP-led state House voted in May to impeach Paxton on 16 articles, unanimously issued by its Investigative Committee. The charges included bribery, unfitness for office, disregard of official duty and abuse of public trust. The trial took place as Paxton is also under an FBI investigation for corruption.
The Senate’s jury deliberations kicked off Friday afternoon shortly after closing arguments in the case.
Paxton was accused of using his office to assist a donor. Real estate executive Nate Paul was arrested and booked in June in Austin on making false statements to banks.
The Attorney General, who’s been under suspension pending the outcome of the trial, did not testify on his own behalf at the Senate trial, but he did plead not guilty to the charges against him. He was not in attendentance when the not guilty verdict was read.
During the trial, state Senators had heard from some of Paxton’s former top aides-turned-whistleblowers who reported him to the FBI. They stated under oath about Paxton’s efforts to help Paul, including an alleged extramarital affair, burner phones and arguments over who paid for the furnishings in Paxton’s home renovation project.
“I witnessed Attorney General Ken Paxton do brazen things on behalf of Nate Paul. He abused the entire office of the attorney general of Texas to benefit Nate Paul,” former Deputy Attorney General Blake Brickman testified, “and it got worse and worse and worse.”
Paxton’s defense team countered by called four of Paxton’s current employees who testified that he’d done nothing wrong, and that they were proud to work for him.
Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton, is a state Senator, but was barred from voting in the impeachment trial of her husband. Even so, she was present in the chamber when former top Ken Paxton aide Jeff Mateer connected the alleged extramarital affair to the impeachment charges.
Even with the state Senate forcing Sen. Paxton’s recusal in June, the Attorney General still has numerous allies among the remaining 30 Senators who will vote on whether to convict him.
For example, the state Senate is led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican who, like Paxton, closely links himself with former President Trump. The pair have driven a right-wing policy push for the last decade.
After the verdict was read, Patrick and Texas state House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) traded potshots.
Patrick accused the Speaker and his team of having “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.”
Phelan fired back by saying that Patrick had ended the trial by “confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people’s House on full display.”
As for Paxton, he said in a statement, “Today, the truth prevailed. The truth could not be buried by mudslinging politicians or their powerful benefactors.”