The Texas state senate voted to acquit attorney general Ken Paxton on 16 separate articles of impeachment after the state house of representatives passed a similar motion in late May.
Had Paxton been convicted of any of the counts, he would have been removed from office and faced a subsequent vote to permanently bar him from public office in Texas. The vote came after 30 state senators, 19 of whom are Republicans, deliberated for nearly eight hours in a closed-door session following earlier deliberations before the upper chamber.
Paxton’s legal troubles came following an agreement reached with four former aides who accused him of wrongful retaliation, which culminated in a multimillion-dollar settlement in February. At the time, the state attorney general asked the Texas legislature to set aside taxpayer funds for the settlement.
BREAKING NOW: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ACQUITTED on first Article of Impeachment.. pic.twitter.com/5PaAAMMEh5
— Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) September 16, 2023
Several of Paxton’s former aides quit or were fired after raising ethical concerns with the FBI, alleging he was abusing the power of his office. Specifically, the officials complained that Paxton was seeking to help Nate Paul, an Austin real-estate developer who made unproven claims about a conspiracy to steal $200 million of his properties. During this time, Paxton further disclosed to staffers that he was having an affair with a female associate of Paul’s.
“If we don't keep public officials from abusing the powers of their office, then frankly no one can,” Republican state representative Andrew Murr, one of the impeachment process managers, told the body before Saturday morning’s vote.
The proceedings have divided the senate, putting former allies of Paxton in a difficult position. “This will, if you’re like me, be the hardest, the most difficult, the heaviest vote that you will ever cast in your time in the Legislature,” state representative Jeff Leach of Plano said earlier.
On Friday, the attorney general’s lawyer, Tony Buzbee, dismissed the trial as baseless. “I would suggest to you this is a political witch hunt,” the legal representative said. “I would suggest to you that this trial has displayed, for the country to see, a partisan fight within the Republican Party.”
“When the house Board of Managers brought this case, they made an assumption. They assumed that this man would quit,” Buzbee asserted during his closing argument on Friday. “They assumed that this man would run and hide.”
Paxton also came under the scrutiny of the FBI amid allegations that he used his office to help friends and donors, notably Nate Paul, an Austin real-estate developer.
Donald Trump has come to the aid of the beleaguered attorney general throughout his legal woes defending Paxton after he opened “election integrity” lawsuits in Texas which placated the former president.
"The RINO Speaker of the House of Texas, Dade Phelan, who is barely a Republican at all and failed the test on voter integrity, wants to impeach one of the most hard working and effective Attorney Generals in the United States, Ken Paxton, who just won re-election with a large number of American Patriots strongly voting for him," Trump wrote on Truth Social in May.
"You would think that any issue would have been fully adjudicated by the voters of Texas, especially when that vote was so conclusive," he added.
A former governor and district judge remained the only two people in the history of Texas to be impeached under the constitution of 1876. Paxton’s wife, state senator Angela Paxton, was barred from participating or voting on the motion.