By Jana J. Pruet
Following eight days of testimony from both sides, 30 state senators voted on Saturday to acquit Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on 16 articles of impeachment.
The state Senate also voted to dismiss the four articles of impeachment that were held in abeyance with a 19–11 vote.
“Today, the truth prevailed. The truth could not be buried by mudslinging politicians or their powerful benefactors. I’ve said many times: Seek the truth! And that is what was accomplished,” Mr. Paxton said in a statement after the acquittal.
There are 31 state senators in Texas; however, only 30 senators—18 Republicans and 12 Democrats—could vote on the impeachment articles because Sen. Angela Paxton, the wife of Mr. Paxton, is ineligible to vote.
Ms. Paxton was required to attend her husband’s trial but was barred from participating in deliberation and voting, according to the trial rules.
The 30 senators, who began their deliberations just before noon on Friday, returned to the Senate chamber at noon on Saturday to vote on 16 of 20 separate articles of impeachment. Four of the articles—articles 11, 12, 13, and 14—were held in abeyance.
The House managers needed 21 votes on any one article to convict Mr. Paxton and remove him from office.
Most of the votes went along party lines with two Republicans, Sens. Robert Nichols and Kelly Hancock, joining the Democrats to vote against Mr. Paxton.
The Epoch Times reached out to Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan for comments.
“This is 16 trials in one,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday morning. “This is not a normal trial.”
The state’s top lawyer, who was reelected to a third term in November, was impeached by a GOP-led House on allegations including bribery and abuse of power. The charges centered on allegations that Mr. Paxton used his office to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who was under federal investigation.
In June, Mr. Paul was indicted on federal charges of making false statements to banks. Mr. Paxton is not mentioned in the indictments.
Mr. Paxton attended closing arguments. He had not attended the trial since the first day when he was required to enter his pleas on each of the 16 articles of impeachment he was facing in the trial.
“I’m heading to Maine to sit down with @TuckerCarlson and discuss the last two weeks in Texas politics. It should be interesting!” Mr. Paxton wrote on X earlier this week.
The attorney general pleaded not guilty to all of the articles. It was not mandatory for him to attend the trial or take the stand on his own behalf.
The trial wrapped up Friday morning with closing arguments from House manager Andrew Murr, followed by defense lawyers Tony Buzbee and Dan Cogdell and a rebuttal by Mr. Murr and Rep. Jeff Leach.
“Defense closing argument by #TonyBuzbee was a tour de force of torpedoes aimed at the House managers mixed with broad slaps at the agenda of #KenPaxton’s tormentors. #AndrewMurr prosecution close is a yawning revisitation of things they’ve already said,” conservative radio host Mark Davis wrote on X.
Mr. Buzbee said the House had not proved their case against his client. He cited the impeachment as a plot against Mr. Paxton, orchestrated by the Austin establishment after he beat George P. Bush in the 2022 Republican primary.
“This is a political trial,” Mr. Buzbee said. “I would suggest to you it’s a political witch hunt.”
“The Bush-era in Texas ends today,” he continued.
Mr. Buzbee went through the litany of accusations, which he said the defense had proved were false.
“There is shame here, and the shame sits right there,” Mr. Buzbee said, pointing at the prosecutors. “That they would bring this case, in this chamber, with no evidence.”
He pointed out how so-called whistleblower Ryan Vassar had cried on the stand over being called a “rogue employee” in a press release on the AOG website.
“This young man Vassar cried on the stand in front of all of you because he had been called a rogue employee. The very time he was called a rogue employee, he was joking and laughing, poking fun and calling his new boss Brett Webster a jerk,” Mr. Buzbee said.
“But when he came in here at the urging of these people, he cried, cried because he’d been called a rogue employee.”
Republican Rep. Andrew Murr replayed several clips of witness testimony and accused Mr. Paxton of allowing Mr. Paul to “infect” the attorney general’s office.
“We discovered unprecedented abuse in the Texas attorney general’s office by Mr. Paxton,” said Republican Rep. Andrew Murr in his closing statements. “He has betrayed us and the people of Texas.”
Republican Rep. Jeff Leach, once a close friend and supporter of Mr. Paxton, used the final minutes of the prosecution’s closing rebuttal to remind the senators that this would be the “hardest vote, the most difficult vote, the heaviest vote” they would cast in their political careers.
“I have loved Ken Paxton for a long time,” Mr. Leach said, adding that this is why it was so difficult for him to impeach Mr. Paxton.
Mr. Buzbee objected to the comments, saying he was “testifying.”
“The jury will decide what is evidence,” Mr. Leach continued.
The 16 Articles of Impeachment
DISREGARD OF OFFICIAL DUTY
ARTICLE 1 – Protection of charitable organization
Paxton is accused of failing to act as a public protector of charitable organizations by directing his employees in the attorney general’s office to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the Roy F. & JoAnn Cole Mitte Foundation against entities controlled by Paul, harming the Austin charity in an effort to benefit the wealthy donor.
ARTICLE 2 – Abuse of the opinion process
Paxton is accused of misusing his official power to issue written legal opinions. He allegedly had employees prepare an opinion that protected some of Paul’s properties from being sold in foreclosure. Paxton concealed his actions by asking a Senate committee chairperson to seek that opinion. He’s also accused of directing employees to reverse their legal conclusion to help Paul.
ARTICLE 3 – Abuse of the open records process
Paxton is accused of misusing his official power by allegedly interfering with his office’s handling of a public records request dealing with the files of a criminal investigation into Paul.
ARTICLE 4 – Misuse of official information
Paxton is accused of misusing his power to administer public information law by improperly obtaining previously undisclosed information held by the attorney general’s office to benefit Paul.
DISREGARD OF OFFICIAL DUTY
ARTICLE 5 – Engagement of Cammack
Paxton is accused of misusing official powers by hiring attorney Brandon Cammack to investigate a baseless complaint made by Paul. That led to Cammack issuing more than 30 grand jury subpoenas in an effort to help Paul.
ARTICLE 6 – Termination of whistleblowers
Paxton is accused of violating the state’s whistleblower law by retaliating against employees who reported his alleged unlawful acts to law enforcement, terminating them without good cause or due process. He’s also accused of engaging in a public and private campaign to impugn those employees’ professional reputations or prejudice their future employment.
MISAPPLICATION OF PUBLIC RESOURCES
ARTICLE 7 – Whistleblower investigation and report
Paxton is accused of misusing public resources by directing employees to conduct a sham investigation into terminated employees’ whistleblower complaints and publish a report containing false or misleading statements in Paxton’s defense.
DISREGARD OF OFFICIAL DUTY
ARTICLE 8 – Settlement Agreement
Paxton is accused of misusing his official powers by concealing his wrongful acts in connection with the whistleblower’s complaints by entering into a settlement with the whistleblowers that provides for payment from public funds. The settlement halted the wrongful termination suit and delayed the discovery of facts and testimony at trial, to Paxton’s advantage. That allegedly prevented voters from making an informed decision about his reelection in 2022.
ARTICLE 9 – Paul’s employment of a woman with whom Paxton has acknowledged having an affair
It is alleged that Paxton benefited from Paul’s decision to hire the woman. In exchange, Paul allegedly received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the attorney general’s office.
ARTICLE 10 – Paul’s providing renovations to Paxton home
It is alleged that in exchange for providing the renovations, Paul received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the attorney general’s office.
ARTICLE 15 – FALSE STATEMENT IN OFFICIAL RECORDS
It is alleged that Paxton made or caused to be made multiple false or misleading statements in the lengthy written report issued by his office in response to whistleblower allegations.
ARTICLE 16 – CONSPIRACY AND ATTEMPTED CONSPIRACY
Paxton is accused of conspiring or attempting to conspire with others to commit acts described in one or more articles.
ARTICLE 17 – MISAPPROPRIATION OF PUBLIC RESOURCES
Paxton is accused of misusing his official powers by causing employees to perform services for his benefit and the benefit of others.
ARTICLE 18 – DERELICTION OF DUTY
Paxton is accused of violating the Texas Constitution, his oaths of office, statutes and public policy against public officials acting contrary to the public interest by engaging in acts described in one or more articles.
ARTICLE 19 – UNFITNESS FOR OFFICE
Paxton is accused of engaging in misconduct, private or public, of such character as to indicate his unfitness for office, as shown by the acts described in one or more articles.
ARTICLE 20 – ABUSE OF PUBLIC TRUST
Paxton is accused of using, misusing or failing to use official powers to subvert the lawful operation of the state government and obstruct the fair and impartial administration of justice, bringing the attorney general’s office into scandal and eroding public confidence in state government, as shown by the acts described in one or more articles.
Allen Zhong and The Associated Press contributed to this report.