Austin, Texas— Texas Attorney Generalbegan Tuesday in the state Senate on 16 articles of impeachment relating to allegations of bribery, dereliction of duty and disregard of official duty.
He pleaded not guilty to all 16 counts on Tuesday morning. Paxton did not attend the afternoon session, which included the opening statements from both sides and testimony from the first witness, his former top aide Jeff Mateer.before publicly accusing Paxton of committing bribery, abuse of office and other crimes.
The GOP-controlled Texas Senate on Tuesday morning rejected all of Paxton's motions to dismiss, although Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the trial, ruled he could not be compelled to testify.
Republicans hold a 19-12 majority in the state Senate, although Paxton's wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, is not allowed to vote. She is sitting for the trial, however, but will not be serving as a juror.
Paxton has been suspended from office since May, when he was impeached by the GOP-controlled Texas House of Representatives. If he is acquitted on all the counts against him, he will be reinstated.
If he is convicted by two-thirds of the Senate on any one of the 16 counts against him, he will be removed from office and could be barred from running for office again.
Here's more about who Paxton is and why he's facing an impeachment trial. Read a timeline of the key events in the impeachment case on.
Who is Ken Paxton?
Paxton is the Republican attorney general of Texas, and since taking office in 2015, he's been known as one of the most conservative attorneys general in the country. During the Obama administration, he gained a reputation for suing the federal government and then grew to be a close ally of former President Donald Trump.
Paxton led several states in filing a lawsuit in Dec. 2020 challenging the presidential election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — all won by Joe Biden — which was eventually thrown out. He then spoke at Trump's rally at the Ellipse on Jan. 6, 2021.
The previous two attorneys general who preceded Paxton — Rick Perry and Greg Abbott — both went on to be elected governor. Before Paxton became attorney general, he served in the state Senate and as a Texas state representative in the Legislature for Collin and Dallas Counties.
Two years after Paxton was elected attorney general, his wife,, successfully ran for his former state Senate seat. The pair met when they were students at Baylor University, and they now have four children and two grandchildren. The Paxtons often talk about the heavy influence of their church on their conservative politics.
What is he accused of?
Ken Paxton has long faced questions about his relationship with real estate developer Nate Paul, who donated to Paxton's campaign. Paul has since
Several aides in Paxton's office came forward in 2020 alleging that Paxton influenced employees to get involved in legal disputes that would benefit Paul and his business. In return, they alleged, Paul provided extensive home renovations for Paxton — and also employed a woman with whom Paxton was allegedly having an affair.
Paxton denies the allegations against him.
According to a report by the House impeachment managers, who will present their arguments at his state Senate trial, Angela Paxton and the woman Paxton allegedly had an affair with had a "loud verbal confrontation down at the cafe" at one point.
One of Paxton's former top aides, Andrew Wicker, testified to House impeachment managers that he heard that before he came to work for the attorney general's office in 2019, there had been an "intervention" in the office about his alleged affair.
Wicker told the House impeachment managers that he was told that "they all got in a room and talked about it, put it all out on the table and I don't know what all was said in that discussion." He added, "I know that it eventually became knowledge with Angela and that there is a form of reconciliation there." But Wicker also testified that he believed the alleged affair had resumed.
Wicker testified that there were discussions between Paxton and members of the staff about a 2019 FBI raid on Paul's home, and although Wicker said he didn't have "firsthand knowledge" about it, it appeared there had been an effort to obtain the affidavit for the search for Paul.
The aide also told the House impeachment managers that he was asked to deliver a manila envelope to Paul, which investigators believe contained confidential FBI files about Paul.
In another instance, Wicker testified that during renovations to Paxton's house in 2020, he wanted granite countertops. When told that it would cost $20,000, Wicker said Paxton replied, "I will check with Nate." Wicker said that struck him as "odd" because both Paxton and his wife are "very stingy with money."
Wicker testified that around the time of the renovation —the late summer and early fall of 2020— "we were spending an increasingly large share of our calendar time focused on Nate Paul and those — and those cases."
Wicker, who testified that Angela Paxton referred to him as a "second son," resigned in 2020 amid accusations that he was involved in the alleged corruption.
Four other aides, whom Paxton described as "rogue employees," filed a lawsuit in 2020 alleging that they were fired after coming forward with information about what was going on in the attorney general's office. On Feb. 10, Paxton announced the attorney general's office had settled the lawsuit for $3.3 million. Days later, on Feb. 21, Paxton put a line item in the budget for the $3.3 million to settle the lawsuit with taxpayer money.
The request led House Speaker Dade Phelan to begin the investigation into Paxton. On May 23, the House General Investigating Committee went public about its probe into the proposed settlement with the whistleblowers. According to the committee, the settlement with the whistleblowers would prevent a trial and the details from becoming public.
The committee recommended 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton. On May 25, Paxton blasted it as an "illegal impeachment scheme," and his attorneys argued that the impeachment proceedings could not go forward because Paxton had been reelected since the time of the allegations.
What happened at the House impeachment hearing?
As the Texas' legislative session was wrapping up, the Texas House held an impeachment hearing on May 27. Over the course of several hours, the House listened to the evidence laid out by the impeachment managers and asked questions about the process.
Although Republicans hold a 22-seat majority in the Texas House, 60 Republicans joined 61 Democrats in voting to impeach Paxton. Just 23 Republicans voted to keep him in office.
Among the 60 Republicans who voted to impeach were the five Republicans who represent Collin County, Paxton's home base.
Under the Texas constitution, an official who is impeached is suspended from office immediately, without pay. Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed two interim attorneys general since Paxton was impeached.
What will happen now in the Senate trial?
Paxton's impeachment trial is now being held in the state Senate. Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor, will preside over the trial, and the 31 state senators will be the jurors.
Lawyers for the state have released 4,000 pages of evidence that they plan to present at the trial. The Senate has agreed to consider 16 of the original 20 articles of impeachment.
Paxton's wife, who is still a Texas state senator, says that she'll attend the trial, but she's barred from participating in any of the deliberations or vote.
A two-thirds majority of all sitting senators on any one of the charges is required for a conviction or removal of office. If Paxton is acquitted of all of the charges, he will be returned to office.
Have Paxton or his wife spoken publicly since his impeachment?
A gag order has been placed on both sides speaking to the press. But the gag order hasn't prevented Paxton from raising money, and he said in July that he raised $1.7 million in the 12 days after he was impeached.
Paxton and his wife spoke at a rally for the Collin County Republican party. He said the gag order prevented him from speaking publicly, so he instead focused on alleging voter fraud and blaming the media.
"And by the way, thanks to the media for showing up today. I'm sure they're here for a good story," Paxton said. "Actually, if you've kind of kept up, you could read that I'm responsible for the JFK assassination and for 9/11 and everything in between."
Angela Paxton also announced she would be running for reelection.
What is the criminal case against Paxton?
In an unrelated case, a Collin County grand jury indicted him in July 2015 for two first-degree felony charges of securities fraud, which carry a sentence of up to 99 years in prison, and a third-degree felony charge of failure to register.
Paxton has so far successfully avoided prosecution since the alleged crimes took place before he took office. Paxton has denied the allegations against him.
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