Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial to begin: Everything you need to know

Ken Paxton
Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton makes a statement at his office, May 26, 2023, in Austin, Texas. Eric Gay/AP

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial to begin: Everything you need to know

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AUSTIN, Texas — State senators will return to the capital city Tuesday for the beginning of what is expected to be a tense and unpredictable trial to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The three-term Republican was temporarily stripped of his duties in May as the state’s chief legal official and could be permanently banished from public service and face criminal charges if found guilty of corruption allegations, including bribery and abuse of public trust.


Paxton, 60, has served alongside Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) since 2015, where he has been a driving force behind the Lone Star State and multi-state legal efforts against Washington. Paxton has brought more lawsuits against the Biden administration than any other red state, but the all-out attack on Washington has been put on pause as he attempts to clear his name.

He is only the third official in the state’s 200 years to be impeached.

Paxton’s past

Paxton has faced federal charges for securities and fraud since being indicted in 2015, but the federal government has not moved forward in that time.

The impeachment is primarily focused on events surrounding Paxton’s interactions with Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who first got involved with Paxton in 2018 when he made a $25,000 campaign donation.

That same year, Paul defaulted on hundreds of millions of dollars in business loans. His office was raided by the FBI in 2019, and Paul was indicted by a grand jury this summer on eight counts of lying to financial institutions, which come with $180 million in damages and up to 240 years in federal jail. Paul pleaded not guilty.

Paxton’s own deputy attorneys general reported their boss to the FBI in 2020. The eight deputies who came forward told federal investigators that Paxton illegally tried to help Paul fight the federal investigation. In return, Paul paid favors to Paxton, including giving a job to a woman whom Paxton was having an affair with. The job allowed the out-of-town woman to work in Austin. The whistleblowers also alleged that Paul financed Paxton’s home renovations.

All eight deputies were fired or resigned. Four deputies have since sued on the basis they were wrongly terminated and are protected by state whistleblower policies.

A trial comes to fruition

Paxton was impeached by the state House in late May following the House Committee on General Investigating’s unanimous decision to file 20 articles of impeachment.

The longtime friend of former President Donald Trump faces a slew of allegations, including bribery, securities fraud, and attempting to interfere in foreclosure lawsuits. The allegations have floated around throughout his tenure.

“No one person should be above the law, least not the top law officer of the state of Texas,” said state Rep. David Spiller, a Republican and one of the committee’s five members.

The Texas House is controlled by Republicans by an 86-64 margin. They mostly abandoned their fellow Republican in a vote of 121-23.

A defiant Paxton claimed shortly after his impeachment that he was not allowed to put forth evidence defending himself during the impeachment.

“The fact that I was prohibited from presenting evidence to defend myself reveals that this shameful process was curated from the start as an act of political retribution,” Paxton said at the time, adding that he had “full confidence” he would be exonerated.

Trump promised at the time that he would “fight” the state House Republicans who abandoned Paxton, but Abbott has stayed quiet and has not commented on the proceedings, potentially to avoid interfering in the process.

What happens in the trial

The 31-member Senate would need 21 votes to convict Paxton on any of the charges. Paxton has asked the Senate to dismiss the articles of impeachment before managers can present the evidence — a long-shot request.

Although Republicans hold 19 seats and Democrats have 12 seats, Paxton is not necessarily safe.

Two-thirds of the Senate’s 31 members are required to convict Paxton. Republican state Sen. Angela Paxton, Paxton’s wife, must attend the trial but is not allowed to vote due to a conflict of interest.

The trial will be carried out like a civil or criminal trial, with the defendant’s lawyer and plaintiffs questioning witnesses, making their case, and offering closing arguments to the senators. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican and friend of Paxton’s, will preside over the Senate.

Paxton has been suspended without pay from his duties since the House voted to impeach him. He could get his job back if he is cleared of the allegations.

A conviction would strip Paxton of his title. However, Paxton could run for another term as attorney general or other office in the future. The Senate would have to conduct a second vote if it wished to prevent him from seeking office in the state again.


How Texans feel about it

Texans are evenly divided over the trial, with just 51% of registered voters stating that they believe the effort to remove him from office is justified based on his actions, according to recent polling.

The University of Texas’s Texas Politics Project surveyed voters between Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 and found 7 in 10 Democrats agreed that Paxton should face justice, while only 1 in 4 Republicans felt the same way.

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