AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Senate has acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton on all impeachment articles.
The Ken Paxton impeachment trial came to an end Saturday afternoon with not a single article of impeachment getting close to the required 21 votes needed to remove Paxton from office.
"This judgment will be filed with the Secretary of State and Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr. Is hereby at this moment reinstated to office," stated Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Paxton’s attorney Tony Buzbee said it was a difficult fight. He also said that the trial never should have happened, but admitted he was nervous.
"Well, there's an old saying in East Texas. Maybe I'll say it this way. I was nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. We didn't know there were no leaks. We had no idea how the jury would vote. All we were focused on was trying to put on the best case we could," said Buzbee.
With the trial over, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick revealed his true opinion about the impeachment case. He criticized House leaders and called for constitutional changes to the process as well as an audit.
"Our founders expected better. It should have never happened this year. And hopefully it doesn't again. Unless we address this in the Constitution," said Patrick.
In a statement House Speaker Dade Phelan lashed back saying in part:
"To be clear, Patrick attacked the House for standing up against corruption. His tirade disrespects the Constitutional impeachment process afforded to us by the founders of this great state. The inescapable conclusion is that today’s outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice."
State Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio, walked out of Patrick’s lecture as the trial came to a close.
"Half those Republicans that voted today thought long and hard. And ultimately, in the end, they got pressure from outside influences. And whether that pressure came in through phone calls or just the harsh reality that if they voted to convict Ken Paxton, they would lose their race. That is the absolute truth. That is the sad and absolute truth, because Ken Paxton is a crook," said Gutierrez.
Ken Paxton was accused of providing inappropriate and allegedly illegal assistance to Nate Paul, a political donor from Austin. Paul at the time was being investigated by federal and state authorities for a multi-million dollar bank fraud scheme. He is currently awaiting trial in federal court.
KEN PAXTON IMPEACHMENT TRIAL COVERAGE
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In the Senate gallery, several of the whistleblowers who made the accusations against Paxton watched as only two Republicans - Senators Hancock (R - North Richland Hills) and Nichols (R - Jacksonville) voted for the most serious articles. Senator Bob Hall (R - Edgewood) when he left the chamber, defended his vote to acquit.
"Millions of dollars were wasted because the House was on a mission without considering what it was going to take to get there. They set the objective and then filled in behind it. Had they done their work correctly, this would never happen," said Hall.
House prosecutors, during a news conference, stood by their work.
"We heard the lieutenant governor explain in the media before trial that this is not a civil trial. It was not a criminal trial. It was a political trial. And at the end of the day, you have to understand that we provided all the evidence that you would in a formal trial encased in wrapped up in a political trial," said Chairman Andrew Murr (R - Junction).
They claim hard evidence of wrongdoing was ignored. House Manager Ann Johnson (D - Houston) specifically brought up Article X which involved the renovation of Paxton’s home. During the trial defense attorney Tony Buzbee said he disproved the accusation.
"We did all we could and everything we could to present all that evidence in the thousands of documents. Chairman Murr said yesterday, here it is, the thousands of pages that you can review before coming back with your verdict. Those documents showed that there was a fraudulent construction company that was doing renovations on the Attorney General's house in June, sending countless emails to Nate Paul and pictures of the Paxton's home to Nate Paul, that they moved back in in the middle of the summertime, that no invoices had ever been made. And the minute Brandon Cammack (outside attorney hired by Paxton to investigate claims by Nate Paul) gets a cease and desist letter from those conservative loyal Republicans who blew the whistle on crimes within hours, Ken Paxton is texting somebody and saying, 'Can you write $121,000 check out of my blind trust to a construction company that didn't exist under the laws of state of Texas' until the next month and the invoice according to the matter, metadata wasn't created until the next day. Tell me tell me how you dismiss that evidence as a public and as a public official," said Johnson.
The two-House Managers were asked why Nate Paul was not called to testify, or Paxton’s alleged mistress Laura Olson. Johnson said the rules they had to abide by kept changing from Civil to Criminal Court Rules. She suggested that prosecutors learned that Paul and Olson were going to Claim the 5th Amendment Right not to testify. Calling them under the Criminal Rules, according to Johnson, is an ethics violation that can lead to disbarment.
"The Board of Managers presented overwhelming evidence that Ken Paxton is the most corrupt politician in the state of Texas at this time. And the Republicans in the Texas Senate just returned him to the office of top cop," said Johnson.
Paxton was not in the Senate chamber during the Saturday vote or with his defense team after it. FOX 7 asked his attorney, Dan Cogdell, if the impeachment acquittal will factor into Paxton’s awaiting trial on state security fraud charges.
"Those people have to think about going forward on that case. That's been a BS case since day one. That case like this one should have never been brought. They ought to dismiss it. If they don't dismiss it, we'll try them and beat them there just like we beat them here," said Cogdell.
The security charges were among the original 20 impeachment articles but were set aside before the start of the impeachment trial. Senate members voted to dismissed them. It was noted that dismissal action was not an acquittal. Essentially leaving them in legal limbo pending the outcome of Paxton's securities trial in Houston.
Closing arguments were made Friday morning.
State senators started deliberations on whether the attorney general will be permanently removed from office, or if he can return from his suspension.
21 votes were needed to hold up one or more of the impeachment articles.
The trial came to an end after about two weeks of testimony; it wrapped with fiery closing arguments from house prosecutors and Paxton's defense team.
Reactions to the verdict
Lawmakers and organizations have been reacting to the Senate's verdict on Paxton since the vote on Saturday.
Attorney General Ken Paxton
Paxton himself released the following statement following his acquittal:
"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.
"I thank the 4.2 million Texans who voted for me last year. I will always be grateful for your support, and I will continue to honor your vote by defending the rule of law and our constitutional rights. I’m also grateful for the state senators who followed the law and refused to overturn an election. I also thank my legal team for exposing the absurdity of these false allegations.
"Most importantly, I want to thank my amazing wife Angela, who I love dearly. She is a brave woman of deep faith, unquestionable integrity, and the light of our entire family.
"The sham impeachment coordinated by the Biden Administration with liberal House Speaker Dade Phelan and his kangaroo court has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, disrupted the work of the Office of Attorney General and left a dark and permanent stain on the Texas House.
"The weaponization of the impeachment process to settle political differences is not only wrong, it is immoral and corrupt.
"Now that this shameful process is over, my work to defend our constitutional rights will resume.
"Thank you to everyone who has stood with us during this time.
"Finally, I can promise the Biden Administration the following: buckle up because your lawless policies will not go unchallenged. We will not allow you to shred the constitution and infringe on the rights of Texans. You will be held accountable."
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said a statement to the Senate chamber following the decision to acquit Paxton on 16 articles of impeachment. In the statement, the lieutenant governor thanked those who worked on the trial, including the Rules Committee and the Senators, but also criticized the process of the trial, particularly the speediness of the initial House vote on the articles of impeachment.
"I have been unusually quiet since the Texas House of Representatives sent the Senate articles of impeachment against the attorney general on very short notice in the final hours of the regular legislative session," he said in part.
"An impeachment should never happen again in the House like it happened this year," he concluded.
Speaker Dade Phelan
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan issued a statement following the verdict, criticizing the Senate's decision to acquit Paxton of all charges and criticizing Lt. Gov. Patrick's statement immediately following the end of the trial.
"It is extremely unfortunate that after hearing and evaluating this evidence, the Texas Senate chose not to remove (Paxton) from office," Phelan said. "Moreover, I find it deeply concerning that after weeks of claiming he would preside over this trial in an impartial and honest manner, Lt. Gov. Patrick would conclude by confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people's House on full display."
Texans For Lawsuit Reform
Texans For Lawsuit Reform, a bipartisan non-profit that "keep(s) abusive lawsuits from killing jobs and slowing down…economic growth," per its website, released the following statement after the Paxton decision:
"We commend the Texas Legislature for conducting its business on the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton responsibly, openly and according to our constitutional provisions and precedents, after serious questions about Paxton’s actions were raised by his senior staff. This is a confirmation of how Texans resolve even the most divisive issues in a peaceful and deliberate manner."
Closing arguments on day 9 of the trial
Attorney general Ken Paxton returned to the Texas Senate Chamber Friday after only attending day one of his trial.
As Paxton sat with his legal team, state representative Andrew Murr, the lead house manager in the impeachment prosecution, summed up the nearly two weeks of testimony.
"The Constitution charges us with policing our own," Murr said. "If we don't keep public officials from abusing the capacity of their offices, then, frankly, no one can."
AG Paxton has been suspended since he was impeached by the House on 20 articles of impeachment.
The 16 taken up by the Senate involve claims of abuse of office, conspiracy and bribery.
The case stems from a whistleblower complaint by several former staff members.
They accused Paxton of providing improper assistance to Nate Paul, a political donor who recently was indicted for a multimillion dollar bank fraud scheme.
"The travesty is that Mr. Paxton's desire to deliver results for Nate Paul eventually tore the office apart," Murr said during closing arguments. "It metastasized and overwhelmed the office. When it came to Nate Paul, Ken Paxton abandoned and betrayed his trusted and knowledgeable staff, his conservative principles and his commitment to family values, the law and his oath of office. He repeatedly demanded that his top deputies act as Nate Paul's personal lawyers and not the state's lawyers. He gave the keys to the office."
Defense attorneys responded to the allegations with a fiery denouncement by attorney Tony Buzbee.
"There is shame here," Buzbee said. "And the shame sits right there that they would bring this case in this chamber with no evidence."
Defense attorneys admit Paxton helped a friend, but only because Paxton suspected wrongdoing by federal and state authorities investigating Nate Paul.
Buzbee called the accusations a joke based on assumptions.
"You heard in the media that the evidence is ten times worse than the public knows, but what a farce that was," Buzbee said. "What we have seen instead is a bunch of supposition: mights, maybes, could have beens. That's what we've seen in this trial."