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The impeachment case against suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton has gone to the jury. Texas Senators are deliberating 16 articles of impeachment. Paxton is accused of misusing the powers of the attorney general’s office to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor who was under federal investigation. Senators began deliberations around noon Friday, but began leaving the Capitol without a verdict before 8 p.m.
The House impeachment managers insisted that they proved their claims of bribery and corruption, arguing that the jury of 30 senators had no choice but to convict. Paxton’s defense team said the case was full of holes, circumstantial evidence and misdirection.
If 21 of 30 eligible senators convict Paxton on any of the 16 articles of impeachment, he is automatically removed from office and there will be a subsequent vote on whether to permanently bar him from seeking state office. Sen. Angela Paxton, the attorney general’s wife, was prohibited from participating in deliberations or voting.
Deliberations are expected to resume at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Multiple senators have left the Capitol after more than six hours of deliberating in the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton without reaching a final verdict.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had told senators this afternoon to deliberate until at least 8 p.m. Senators are expected to return Saturday at 9 a.m. to continue deliberations.
– Kate McGee
It could be a long weekend for the Texas Senate, if they want to take the time.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told senators before they left the floor to deliberate on the 16 impeachment articles against suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton that they can return at any time, with at least 30-minutes notice, to vote on each article.
Unless they're ready to vote, they must deliberate until at least 8 p.m. tonight but can go longer if they want, Patrick said.
If more time is needed, they must return at 9 a.m. Saturday and deliberate until at least 8 p.m. A Sunday session would start at noon through at least 8 p.m., Patrick said.
If senators are not ready to vote by then, Patrick said he could decide to sequester them in the Capitol.
– Kate McGee
The state Senate has exited the Senate floor to start deliberations in the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton after lawyers for both sides completed their closing arguments.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the impeachment proceedings, told senators Friday morning that they cannot read the news. use their cell phones or speak to anybody who is not another senator while deliberating.
Two-thirds of the full Senate, 21 senators, need to vote yes on any of the 16 articles to remove Paxton from office. If an article is affirmed, senators also will vote on whether Paxton should be barred from holding state office ever again.
Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, is not allowed to deliberate or vote due to “spousal conflict” under trial rules approved by senators.
Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, spent closing arguments for the prosecution walking senators through each impeachment article, providing highlights of the evidence and testimony presented over the past two weeks.
The House impeachment managers played audio clips of various witness testimony and recommended specific exhibits for senators to review during deliberations.
He highlighted Paxton’s tendency to communicate using “extra phones” and encrypted messaging, especially when communicating with an outside lawyer Paxton hired to investigate his friend Nate Paul’s claims against federal law enforcement.
Murr walked senators through how Paxton’s top deputies, who oversaw different agency departments, connected the dots of Paxton’s actions and concluded it crossed into illegal behavior they could not ignore.
“The puzzle pieces came together that day, and they realized they had a massive problem,” Murr said, rejecting the defense argument that whistleblowers should have gone directly to Paxton to raise their concerns.
“This line of questioning ignored months and months of warnings, conversation and pleas imploring that Mr. Paxton stop asking his office to do work for Nate Paul,” he said.
Murr also homed in on a piece of evidence not widely discussed during the trial: a secret Uber account used by Paxton that was linked to a credit card in Nate Paul’s name. The document shows multiple Uber trips between July and October 2020 to Laura Olson’s home and Nate Paul’s businesses. Murr noted the trips “abruptly” ended a day after Paxton’s deputies reported him to the FBI.
Leaning heavily on Paxton’s defense repeated quip that “there are no coincidences in Austin,” Murr tasked senators to consider if all of the evidence presented could be excused as a coincidence.
He told senators this vote is “probably the only vote that anyone will ever talk about,” but implored them to think about “what this public service means.”
Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, ended closing arguments making a plea to Republican lawmakers that he understood the weight of this vote by sharing how close he and Paxton were, calling him a “once trusted adviser.” But he said Paxton’s behavior over the past few years had changed his mind.
“I believe it is right, as painful as it might be, to sustain articles of impeachments,” Leach said.
– Kate McGee
Ken Paxton’s lead lawyer, Tony Buzbee, wrapped up his final arguments by dismissing the impeachment allegations as “nothing” and urging senators to put Paxton “back to work.”
Buzbee told senators that all of Paxton’s disputed actions were within his purview as the state’s top lawyer and contended he was doing his job to investigate Nate Paul’s claims that federal law enforcement had violated his rights when they investigated him.
“Sometimes the feds screw up,” Buzbee said, stating that Paxton hired outside counsel to investigate Paul’s claims because he just wanted to know the truth.
After Buzbee concluded, he left only a few minutes for defense lawyer Dan Cogdell to wrap up their arguments.
“I suspect he did some things you probably didn't like, I understand that,” Cogdell told the Senate. “But that's not the issue. The issue is whether the proof is there that is so convincing that it convinces you beyond a reasonable doubt. The same standard of proof in a death penalty case. It’s not.”
As Tony Buzbee, Ken Paxton’s lead lawyer, laid out his final arguments in the impeachment trial of the suspended attorney general, he made repeated references to the Bush family.
At multiple points throughout the trial, Buzbee and his defense team have attempted to tie the impeachment proceedings to the Republican political dynasty, insinuating the whistleblowers who reported Paxton to federal law enforcement were working with Paxton’s political rivals.
“The Bush era ends in Texas today,” Buzbee declared.
Buzbee argued that former Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who lost to Paxton in last year’s Republican primary runoff, applied to renew his law license on the same day — Oct. 1, 2020 — that senior staff informed Paxton that they had reported his relationship to real estate investor Nate Paul to the FBI.
Buzbee again tried to connect the whistleblowers to the Bush family when he pointed out that a group of whistleblowers hired the same lawyer to represent them.
“[These] are nothing but disgruntled ex-staffers who hired the same lawyer who is a protege of the Bush regime,” Buzbee alleged.
— Kate McGee
Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, began closing arguments Friday morning stating the Texas House did not lightly bring the articles of impeachment against suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, but discovered “unprecedented abuse.”
Paxton must be removed from office, Murr insisted, because he misused the powers of his office to benefit Austin real estate investor Nate Paul.
“He has betrayed us and the people of Texas, and if he's given the opportunity, he will continue to abuse the power given to him,” Murr told senators.
Murr will have 50 minutes to finish his arguments after the defense.
Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee started his closing arguments by saying prosecutors presented no evidence to prove their allegations.
He warned senators that if they vote to remove the Republican attorney general from office: “If it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone.”
The House impeachment managers’ case was about “supposition, mights, maybes, could have been,” Buzbee said. “It’s about nothing.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, laid out rules for state senators as they prepare Friday to deliberate on the 16 articles of impeachment.
Both sides will have one hour to provide closing arguments. Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, started with a 10-minute closing argument before the defense will have an hour to present their arguments. The prosecution will then use their remaining 50 minutes to finish.
Once deliberations begin, Patrick warned senators that they are allowed to speak only with each other during deliberations and cannot have their phones or open a computer to read the news or talk to anyone else.
“You can tell your kids good night or your wife or husband, but you should not read any news, look at any news, open up your computers,” Patrick said. If senators take more than a day to deliberate, they are allowed to sleep outside the Capitol.
He noted that Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, is not allowed to deliberate or vote due to “spousal conflict,” but noted that the Senate would need to reach a two-thirds vote to convict on any article, meaning at least 21 senators would need to vote yes to convict.
Conviction on any article would remove Paxton from office. He was suspended without pay once the House voted for impeachment in late May.
Patrick emphasized to jurors that they must consider only evidence submitted in the trial, including the testimony of witnesses, adding that comments by lawyers are not evidence.
“This is 16 trials in one. This is not a normal trial,” Patrick told members of the public seated in the gallery Friday morning.
Patrick said members of the public will be alerted, via the Texas Senate website, 30 minutes prior to the start of voting. Senators will vote from their desks on each individual motion.
– Kate McGee
Attorney General Ken Paxton strode into the Senate chamber around 8:50 a.m. and took a seat at the defense table next to his lead lawyer, Tony Buzbee.
He has not attended the trial since the first day, when he was required by the rules to answer to the 16 articles of impeachment. Even then, Buzbee entered not guilty pleas on his behalf. Paxton did not take the stand in his own defense.
His lawyers persuaded the judge, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to rule that he could not be called as a witness.
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s team rested its case just after 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The defense called just four witnesses in total, all current department heads who currently work at the agency.
They had several hours of available time remaining.
The defense’s strategy appeared to be to attack individual articles of impeachment rather than refute the prosecution’s narrative of corruption and bribery.
Though the rules permitted both sides one hour each to present rebuttal evidence, lawyers for the defense and prosecution said they will move to their closing arguments instead when the impeachment trial resumes at 9 a.m. Friday.
— Zach Despart