AUSTIN, Texas — The gravest menace to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ‘s troubled career got underway Tuesday as the embattled Republican sat for an impeachment trial on charges of corruption and bribery that have shadowed one of state’s strongest figures for years.
The destiny of Paxton, 60, is within the fingers of GOP senators with whom he served earlier than successful a statewide race to take cost of the legal professional basic’s workplace in 2015. The chamber consists of his spouse, state Sen. Angela Paxton, who can attend the trial however is barred from voting on whether or not her husband ought to be convicted or acquitted.
Shortly earlier than the historic proceedings started, Ken and Angela Paxton spoke for a couple of minutes on the Senate flooring and shared a briefed kiss.
Other senators had been sworn-in one after the other as Paxton supporters, many sporting pink shirts, watched from the higher flooring gallery that was about half full. Other onlookers cheered when impeachment managers who will current the case towards Paxton entered the chamber.
“It is the Austin swamp,” stated Kaci Sisk, who heads a gaggle of conservative activists close to San Antonio who helps Paxton and arrived earlier than dawn to get a seat within the gallery. “This thing has been a sham from the start.”
In an period of bitter partisanship, the historic continuing is a uncommon occasion of a political occasion in search of to carry one in every of its personal to account for allegations of wrongdoing. The impeachment additionally got here as a sudden rebuke to Paxton, who has constructed a nationwide repute combating high-profile authorized battles, together with making an attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and who received a 3rd time period in 2022 regardless of long-pending state felony fees and an FBI investigation.
The Republican-led House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to question Paxton in May, largely based mostly on his former deputies’ claims that the legal professional basic used his energy to assist a rich donor who reciprocated with favors, together with hiring a girl with whom Paxton had an extramarital affair. The 20 articles of impeachment embrace abuse of public belief, unfitness for workplace and bribery.
The 121-23 vote instantly suspended Paxton and made him solely the third sitting official in Texas’ practically 200-year historical past to be impeached.
Paxton has decried the impeachment as a “politically motivated sham” and an effort to disenfranchise his voters. The legal professional basic’s attorneys say he received’t testify within the Senate trial. He has stated he expects to be acquitted.
Paxton faces trial by a jury — the 31 state senators — stacked together with his ideological allies and a “judge,” Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who loaned $125,000 to his final reelection marketing campaign. Two different senators play a job within the allegations towards Paxton.
As reporters and members of the general public filed into the Senate gallery, Angela Paxton walked the chamber flooring wearing a shiny pink skirt and jacket and talked with the chamber’s secretary.
Over the weekend, Ken and Angela Paxton rallied supporters at a picnic close to their hometown in suburban Dallas. It was a uncommon public look for Paxton, who informed the group he couldn’t focus on the trial attributable to a gag order however attacked Republicans who led his impeachment within the Texas House.
“Let’s clean house,” Paxton informed the group.
Peter Bowen, 74, drove from Houston at 3:30 a.m. to be in line for the Senate earlier than dawn. He stated Paxton, who was reelected to a 3rd time period final November, was impeached due to his assist of former President Donald Trump, and that voters have already made clear the place they stand.
“We all knew about them, and we elected him. What they are doing is taking away the vote of the majority of the people of Texas,” Bowen stated.
A two-thirds majority — or 21 senators — is required for conviction, that means that if all 12 Senate Democrats vote towards Paxton, they nonetheless want not less than 9 of the 19 Republicans to hitch them.
The trial will probably deliver forth new proof. But the define of the allegations towards Paxton has been public since 2020, when eight of his prime deputies informed the FBI that the legal professional basic was breaking the regulation to assist Austin actual property developer Nate Paul.
The deputies — largely conservatives whom Paxton handpicked for his or her jobs — informed investigators that Paxton had gone towards their recommendation and employed an outdoor lawyer to probe Paul’s allegations of wrongdoing by the FBI in its investigation of the developer. They additionally stated Paxton pressured his employees to take different actions that helped Paul.
In return, Paul allegedly employed a former aide to a Republican state senator with whom Paxton was having an affair and bankrolled the renovations of one of many legal professional basic’s properties, a million-dollar dwelling in Austin.
Paul was indicted in June on federal felony fees that he made false statements to banks to safe greater than $170 million in loans. He pleaded not responsible and has broadly denied wrongdoing in his dealings with Paxton.
The two males bonded over a shared feeling that they had been the targets of corrupt regulation enforcement, based on a memo by one of many staffers who went to the FBI. Paxton was indicted on securities fraud fees in 2015 however is but to face trial. The Senate shouldn’t be taking on, not less than initially, three impeachment articles in regards to the alleged securities fraud and a fourth associated to Paxton’s ethics filings.
Federal prosecutors proceed to look at Paul and Paxton’s relationship, so the proof introduced throughout his impeachment trial poses a authorized in addition to a political threat to the legal professional basic.
After going to the FBI, all eight of Paxton’s deputies give up or had been fired. Their departures led to an exodus of different seasoned attorneys and noticed the legal professional basic’s workplace consumed by dysfunction behind the scenes.
Four of the deputies later sued Paxton underneath the state whistleblower act. The bipartisan group of lawmakers who led Paxton’s impeachment within the House stated it was him in search of $3.3 million in taxpayer funds to settle with the group that prompted them to analyze his dealings.