AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a nearly two-week long trial, the Texas Senate on Saturday acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment he faced.
Paxton originally faced 20 articles of impeachment, but Senators only weighed 16 of the 20 articles of impeachment approved by the House in late May.
A two-thirds majority — 21 senators — was needed to convict Paxton on each count. If he had been convicted on at least one of the counts, the suspended attorney general would have been immediately removed from office.
Various political figures have released statements or taken to social media to commend the Senate and Paxton or voice their disapproval of the outcome of the trial.
Governor Greg Abbott on Saturday issued a statement following the Texas Senate’s verdict in the trial:
The jury has spoken. Attorney General Paxton received a fair trial as required by the Texas Constitution. Attorney General Paxton has done an outstanding job representing Texas, especially pushing back against the Biden Administration. I look forward to continuing to work with him to secure the border and protect Texas from federal overreach.
Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan released a statement saying in part, “it is extremely unfortunate that after hearing and evaluating this evidence, the Texas Senate chose not to remove him from office.”
Phelan’s full statement is below:
Over the last two weeks, the Texas House Board of Managers provided the Texas Senate and the people of Texas extensive evidence of Ken Paxton’s corruption, deception and self-dealing. It is extremely unfortunate that after hearing and evaluating this evidence, the Texas Senate chose not to remove him from office. Moreover, I find it deeply concerning that after weeks of claiming he would preside over this trial in an impartial and honest manner, Lt. Governor Patrick would conclude by confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people’s House on full display. 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.
This impeachment was set in motion because Ken Paxton requested millions of taxpayer dollars to settle a lawsuit brought by conservative, senior employees who Paxton himself recruited to his office. These brave individuals were willing to sacrifice their reputations and careers to fight against the misconduct they witnessed, which included abuse of power, corruption, allegations of bribery, and allowing Nate Paul to act as the de facto Attorney General of Texas.
The House General Investigating Committee’s subsequent investigation into the merits of the settlement produced more than enough damning evidence to warrant impeachment. The impeachment process exists not to punish the offender, but to determine whether they have abused their power so egregiously that they are unfit for office and their removal is in the best interest of the state. It is unfortunate that the outcome of this process will ultimately relinquish control of the state’s top law enforcement agency to an individual who, I believe, clearly abused his power, compromised his agency and its employees, and moved mountains to protect and benefit himself.
The Senate’s refusal to remove Ken Paxton from office is, however, not the end of this matter. Ken Paxton is the subject of multiple other lawsuits, indictments and investigations. If new facts continue to come out, those who allowed him to keep his office will have much to answer for.
I extend my utmost thanks to the House Board of Managers and their legal team for their diligent work on this matter, and to each of the 121 House Members who bravely acted in the best interest of this state by voting to advance the articles of impeachment. It was a difficult vote to take, but not a difficult decision. And unlike others, they chose principles over politics. I stand with them in full support of their decision and recognize the sacrifices they made in the name of doing what is right. Because of them, Texans had the ability to hear the evidence in a public trial, as the founders of this great state intended.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was the presiding officer of the trial as Senate president, concluded his statement with, “An impeachment should never happen again in the House like it happened this year.” The full statement is below:
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. The law requires the Senate to receive the articles and have a trial, and once I realized I would be the presiding officer and judge, I thought it was my duty to be quiet on this issue. I have done my very best to do so these last 3 months and these 2 weeks. I spent most of the last 90 days preparing for this trial. I have issued over 240 subpoenas, studied numerous motions, written multiple orders, read hundreds of pages of history, rules, and documents, and worked on every detail of this trial.
I want to thank the Rules Committee for their tireless work writing rules that some have said are the finest rules ever written on impeachment. All of us studied past impeachments from across the country to learn from the mistakes of past impeachments so we would not make the same errors. The Rules Committee should be proud of their work.
I want to thank the Senators for doing their work in a thorough, thoughtful, and professional manner. I watched all of you each day listening intently to every word of testimony. Many of you took notes non-stop.
I feel it is important to set the full record straight for the future, so the full picture of what happened is known and how it was we got here.
In the House, the vote to send articles of impeachment against the attorney general to the Senate happened very quickly, with virtually no time for 150 members to study the 20 articles. The Speaker and his team rammed through the first impeachment of a statewide-elected official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent.
In the past, the target of the investigation was notified and invited to attend with counsel and given the opportunity to cross examine witnesses that were placed under oath before testimony was taken. At the conclusion of past House investigations, the evidence was laid out for weeks for House members to evaluate before they took their vote on articles of impeachment.
Rep. John Smithee, a long-time House member, spoke on the House Floor during the impeachment vote in May. He was one of only 23 who voted against impeachment. Rep. Smithee said that the House could not legitimately impeach AG Paxton on the record because there was no record to send to the Senate. He said the House was not following the rule of law, and he said the House approach was, and I quote:
“Hang ’em now and judge them later.”
Rep. Andrew Murr, the Chair of the House Investigating Committee, said on the House floor:
“This [The House] is not the body that does the fact finding, the fact-finding occurs in the Senate and oath for any witness would occur there.”
That is just not true. As Rep. Smithee said, the last House impeachment of a statewide-elected official, in 1917 of Gov. Ferguson, was conducted like a full trial in the House before it was sent to the Senate. Witnesses were put under oath and cross examined by the defendant. Rep. Smithee said this time, no House witnesses were put under oath and the defendant was denied the right to cross examine. Rep. Smithee told his fellow members the House process was indefensible and that the House did not follow the rules of evidence and their case was based on triple hearsay that would never be allowed in court.
I think Rep. Smithee’s speech was one of the most honest and courageous speeches I have ever heard in the House.
In the next regular session, we must amend the Texas Constitution on the issue of impeachment, because the way the constitution is currently written allowed this flawed process to happen this year. Any testimony given in a House impeachment investigation must be given under oath and the target must be allowed to be present with a lawyer to cross examine the witnesses. Otherwise, people can say anything without any accountability or need to be truthful because there is no threat of perjury.
The House must also give all House members a minimum of 2 weeks to review all evidence given under oath before voting on such a serious matter. Had they done these two things in May, this trial may never have happened.
When the House sends articles of impeachment to the Senate, the official in question should not be put on unpaid leave through the process. The federal system does not allow that. President Clinton and President Trump did not have to step down from their duties during their impeachment process. This is not a partisan issue.
We owe it to future legislatures to make these changes so that no future official impeached by the House, whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent, is subjected to the way this impeachment process occurred.
Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment. 31 Senators and a large Senate staff that made this trial possible have put their family life, jobs, and businesses on hold for 3 months after being here already from January to June.
I will call for a full audit of all taxpayer money spent by the House from the beginning of their investigation in March to today. We will provide our costs as well that were forced on us by the House impeachment. One big difference is that the Senate did not pay a huge team of outside lawyers and investigators.
An impeachment should never happen again in the House like it happened this year.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
Texas senators’ and representatives’ reactions
Senator Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) voted yes to the question “Shall this article of impeachment be sustained?” on all but two articles of impeachment. He released the following statement:
The results are a travesty. The Office of the Attorney General has been removed from the boundaries of political ethics. The House demonstrated clearly and unequivocally that Paxton used the office as his own private law firm for private purposes.
The defense tried the case with the aim not of persuading members of the court of Paxton’s innocence, but of convincing far right Republican primary voters that their ideological world was threatened by conviction, so that they, in turn, would threaten the political careers of the Republican members of the Senate.
I’m disillusioned with the way the Senate impeachment trial played out and saddened by the result. Midway through the voting, I saw through the window to my right the United States flag and the Texas flag blowing proudly in the wind. I thought to myself: What are we doing to them in here? Insulting the institutions they represent.
Sen. Nathan Johnson
Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), who served as one of the House impeachment managers, said this:
Sometimes the truth isn’t enough. It’s a lesson I already knew going into this impeachment process, and it proved true today. But because it was and is the truth, I’m proud of the case we laid out.
Mr. Paxton’s corruption was so evident that the most senior attorneys and law enforcement agents who served under him—some of whom were his personal friends—felt morally compelled to report his crimes and misdeeds. They stood up for the truth knowing it would mean the end of careers they’d given everything for.
We presented those facts through more than a week of sworn eyewitness testimony and hundreds of pieces of evidence, including thousands of pages of documents, digital metadata, and geolocation information that together proved persistent, brazen abuse of office. The Senate chose to support a defense rooted in wild conspiracy theories that somehow the Biden administration, the Bush family, and some undefined Marxist leftist deep state were conspiring to come after Mr. Paxton. It was absurd.
What we do know is that one of Mr. Paxton’s own witnesses and current employees testified that the Office of the Attorney General of Texas is Mr. Paxton’s own law firm and that he’s its one and only client. The people of Texas, who that office is actually supposed to represent, will surely regret the Senate allowing that to remain the status quo.
While I’m profoundly disappointed in the decision that was made today, the House began this trial by invoking the words of Sam Houston: ‘Do right and risk the consequences.’ That’s what I did, and that’s what I’ll continue to do, no matter what.
Rep. Joe Moody
Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) voted yes to sustain all but one article of impeachment. He released the following statement:
This verdict unfortunately sanctioned a new standard of conduct for elected officials in Texas. These decisions will impact the standards by which elected officials may conduct themselves for the next 100 years.
There will be those who say that the House Managers did not meet their burden of proof, and that may be true on some articles. However, in my opinion, on Article IX involving bribery, the House proved beyond all doubt that Nate Paul employed Ken Paxton’s mistress, paid for a secret Uber account for Paxton’s personal use, and allowed the Attorney General of Texas to participate in an illicit affair; this, while he had almost unfettered access to the attorney general.
In fact, the evidence was so strong that it showed the Uber account was connected to one of Paul’s credit cards and was used by Paxton to visit the residences of his mistress Laura Olsen and Nate Paul. This arrangement and payment benefiting Paxton may never have been reported to the proper state authority, the Texas Ethics Commission.
The majority has set a poor example for future generations of elected officials by exonerating Paxton on this count. Yet and still, Paxton was exonerated by a majority of the Senate, thus condoning this despicable and unbecoming behavior. As a legislative body, we missed an opportunity to reaffirm our expectations of fitness for office. THE BAR HAS BEEN LOWERED.
Sen. Royce West
Sen. José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) voted yes to sustain all but one article of impeachment. His statement is below:
The Texas Constitution allows the House of Representatives to begin and refer articles of impeachment and requires the Texas Senate to impartially try the articles presented before the body. Over the last couple of months, the Texas Senate has prepared to fulfill its duty. As the State Senator for Senate District 26, it was my duty to impartially review the evidence, listen to the arguments presented, and vote to ensure the protection of the public, the preservation of the integrity of a state government, and the foundation of our democracy.
As a member of the Senate, in the Senate Court of Impeachment, the Constitution grants us the heavy duty of ensuring that we impartially review all of the evidence before us. When holding office as an elected official or staff member of an elected official, we must ensure the trust, integrity, and well-being of the public is always placed first. The courage and bravery of the whistleblowers is what we should hope for those who serve the public. While I do not agree with every viewpoint of the whistleblowers, they put the State of Texas first in making a good-faith report to the proper authorities. When one earns the duty of a public servant, we should hope and expect that they hold the values of and service to people, over party and power. Each elected office does not belong to the office holder, it belongs to the people. We are temporary placeholders of office. The decisions we make during our tenure, and especially during this historic Court of Impeachment, will direct the trajectory of our government, democracy, and how it serves the people.
During the Impeachment Trial of Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton, Jr., twenty Articles of Impeachment were brought before the Texas Senate and sixteen were tried. The House Board of Managers provided over 3,000 pages of documents and 7 days’ worth of testimony. Moreover, each of the whistleblowers testified providing critical evidence to support these articles. It was shocking to me that several public servants, including a decorated Texas Ranger, were mocked throughout the trial.
It is important to note that the Court of Impeachment is not a civil or criminal court. It is not the House’s responsibility to give the Senate every single piece of evidence. Rather, the House must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Attorney General violated his oath of office, and committed acts outlined in each respective article of impeachment. After a thorough review, I voted to sustain articles of impeachment, as the House Board of Managers met the high burden of proof, beyond a reasonable doubt.
I am incredibly disappointed with the outcome of this trial. Before and during the trial, external forces applied pressure to prevent jurors from voting impartially. After an intense review of the evidence, an acquittal of every article of impeachment condones the morally bankrupt actions of Warren Kenneth Paxton, Jr. Moreover, it sends a message to future whistleblowers that their bravery may not produce justice. The final chapter of this decision is not written, and it is my belief that this outcome will be known as a profound error.
The confidence in our government institutions is derived from a system of checks and balances necessary to ensure that those in positions of authority serve the best interests of the people. In the future, it is my hope and prayer that we do not find ourselves in a similar circumstance, but if you do, I implore you to put the people of Texas first, as that will be the only way we can ensure that the government serves the people and democracy.
Sen. José Menéndez
Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) voted to sustain all but two articles of impeachment. She released the following statement:
Integrity is a habit that requires practice so that, when faced with a choice between self-interest and the public interest, we will make the right choice.
Today, self-interest won. The direct, circumstantial and cumulative evidence is overwhelming that Ken Paxton misused his office for the benefit of himself and the private benefit of others; Ken Paxton pursued private interest at the expense of public interest in law enforcement, consistent pandemic policy, and charitable causes; Ken Paxton covered up his affair, gifts of a home renovation paid for by Nate Paul, and his motives for intervening in private lawsuits, releasing sensitive law enforcement information and investigating private citizens and public officials; Ken Paxton destroyed trust with good men and women who did what they could to follow his lead, justify his behavior and protect him; and Ken Paxton actively sought to take retribution on people he viewed as his personal enemies by using the power of his public office.
I commend the whistleblowers, the House Board of Managers and my fellow senators who all handled themselves with courage and integrity throughout a very challenging process. At unfortunate partisan peril to them and myself, I especially commend the extraordinary courage of the Republican whistleblowers, the Republican House members and the Republican Senators who stood up against Paxton’s corruption. I could hardly be more opposite in public policy perspective to these brave Republicans. In 2020 I was a County Judge doing pitched battle against these very same deputies of the Office of Attorney General over local public health orders during the COVID pandemic. And, upon arriving in the Texas Senate, I have almost always been in policy disagreement with House and Senate Republicans. But, I was proud to join them in this bipartisan coalition to preserve the integrity of the Office of Attorney General. We failed.
Every Texas Senator swore on Sam Houston’s bible to impartially try Ken Paxton according to the law and the evidence. After closing arguments, and in spite of the shrill declaration of war on “Bush Republicans” by Paxton’s defense, I believed that many of my fellow Republican senators were convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, as I was, of one or more of the articles (I found 2 of the 16 articles lacking in sufficient evidentiary support). But this morning, the Texas Senate restored Ken Paxton to office, setting a new and lower standard for public service in Texas. And, to dispel any doubt of the partisan pressure within their own party, the Lt. Governor punctuated the vote with a speech full of invective aimed at presumably “Bush Republicans” in the Texas House of Representatives.
It is now up to the courts and the press to do what the Texas Senate would not. Although Ken Paxton has been reinstated by this Senate vote, he remains indicted on multiple federal charges and will go before a judge in a criminal court of law. Although the Texas Senate has made their job more difficult, the press will continue exposing Ken Paxton’s motives, behavior, and alliances. We can only hope that the public has not grown too cynical to care about the thousands of pages of documents and credible eyewitness testimony to corruption and the brave state employees who blew the whistle on it.
This impeachment process is over. If accountability for Ken Paxton is to be had, it will be had beyond the Senate Chamber. The Texas Legislature has important work ahead that will directly affect the lives of every Texan and every community across the state. It is my sincere hope that the Legislature can now focus on serving the People of Texas with health, education, justice, resilience and prosperity.
Sen. Sarah Eckhardt
Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), who voted no on every article of impeachment, made the following comments after the Senate voted to acquit Paxton.
Impeachment is the penultimate act of how to resolve political discourse in American Democracy
and in Texas, per our State Constitution. It is important that any such impeachment begins with
the foundation of evidence that the jurors, the Texas Senate, can use to make a decision beyond a reasonable doubt to remove any elected official after a vote of the public in an election.
Due to the fact that the Texas House of Representatives sent the Texas Senate impeachment
articles in the last week of the regular session to the Senate on very short notice, my estimation is the members of the Senate alone have spent over 700 days of members’ time developing rules, preparing for trial, listening to evidence, and casting our votes. Unlike Federal impeachments where the US House of Representatives takes evidence from witnesses under oath and allows cross examination, the Texas House avoided this key step. I agree with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick that the Texas Constitution should be amended to avoid this from happening in the future. This is the reason why I voted against all pre-trial motions.
By a minimum of 16 votes on 16 articles, Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr. is returned the Attorney
General’s Office, the job the voters of the great State of Texas elected him to. I want to commend
all my fellow members of the Texas Senate, our presiding officer, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, all our
staffs, and participants. The Texas Senate’s long summer of dedicated service to the citizens of
Texas now comes to a close, and may God bless Texas!
Senator Paul Bettencourt
Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian) praised the Senate, called on speaker Phelan to resign, and demanded an investigation. His full statement is below:
I applaud the Texas Senate for conducting a fair and transparent trial and for reaching a verdict that was obviously correct given the shocking lack of evidence. The Texas House leadership, who mislead and pressured Republicans to join a Democrat effort to overturn an election, has, possibly irreparably, disgraced itself and tarnished the reputation of the entire Texas House.
The staggering incompetence and dishonest conduct on display by the leadership of the Texas House, the House General Investigating Committee, and Board of Managers must be repudiated.
Before trial, House leadership said, in writing, that Attorney General Paxton demonstrated a “shocking pattern of abuse and criminality” and “the evidence we found was conclusive.” These were either outright lies, or the House Managers were so blinded by their desire to railroad a political enemy that they failed to take time to learn the truth. We now know that much of what was presented as fact by members of the House General Investigating Committee were demonstratable falsehoods. Yet many House Republicans relied on these assertions and voted to impeach.
The next generation is on the line; with every freedom and liberty being eroded.
Yet instead of securing the border, passing school choice, banning COVID mandates, fixing our grid and energy market, reining in emergency executive powers, cutting spending, ending property taxes, deregulating our economy, or stopping communist governments from buying Texas land, the Speaker of the House prioritized the impeachment of a recently re-elected Attorney General who has proven he is up to the most important task of our time: fighting the out of control federal government, which seeks to destroy our rights, our freedoms, our liberties, our state sovereignty, and the Constitution.
For that reason, in addition to his appointment of liberal Democrats to chair powerful committees and his presiding over the House while clearly unable to execute the duties of his office, I am calling on Speaker Dade Phelan to step down immediately.
Also, since the House General Investigating Committee claimed it was so outraged by a potential $3 million appropriation to fund Paxton’s settlement agreement that led to impeachment, and because I also care about protecting tax dollars, I am requesting an investigation by the State Auditor’s office to determine exactly how much tax money was spent to conduct this impeachment in both chambers. Texans deserve to know exactly how much of their money was wasted on this disgraceful and fruitless exercise.
If “as goes Texas, so goes the nation,” Texas must lead in the defense of liberty. If we do not, then, as President Ronald Reagan said in 1964, “history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.”
Rep. Brian Harrison
Other state and national responses
Former President Donald Trump made more than one post on the social media website Truth about the outcome of the trial. In one of the posts, he wrote, “The Ken Paxton Victory is sooo BIG. WOW!!!”
In other posts, Trump congratulated Paxton on a “great and historic Texas sized victory,” and his wife and family for “having had to go through this ordeal and winning.” Trump also extended the congratulations to the people of Texas and the state Senate for “rejecting political persecution and respecting the integrity of our elections.”
The former president in another post thanked Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick and the Republican state senators for “showing great professionalism and fairness.”
Republican Party of Texas: Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi said the following Saturday:
“Today, after a trial in which the House could muster no evidence of a crime, the Texas Senate overwhelmingly voted to acquit Attorney General Ken Paxton of all counts. Speaker Dade Phelan and his leadership team should be embarrassed for putting Texas through the time and expense of this political sham of an impeachment. We invite the House Republican Caucus to choose leadership moving forward who will unify a Republican governing coalition behind our common goals, instead of sharing power with Democrats who use it to persecute our Republican statewide office holders. We welcome Ken Paxton back to the Attorney General’s Office and anticipate many more conservative victories defending Texas and preserving the America we love for our children and grandchildren.”
Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi
Joe Jaworski, who ran for election for Attorney General of Texas and lost in the Democratic primary runoff on May 24, 2022, released the below statement:
I have said regularly and often that we need a new Attorney General, and the Senate’s acquittal of Ken Paxton is a defeat for the hard working Texans who expect their Attorney General to work for them, and not abuse the public’s trust.
It was clear to me before when I ran for office that Paxton was unfit to serve, and his acquittal is another missed opportunity to restore the rule of law in Texas.
I am deeply upset by the message this acquittal sends, especially to young Texans. Facts and conscience don’t matter. Power and money are all you need to “do the right thing.”
Texans should be outraged by the Senate’s verdict and I predict there will be consequences at the ballot box.
Kathleen Thompson, executive director at Progress Texas, issued the below statement:
There’s no accountability in the Texas Senate today.
For years, Attorney General Ken Paxton has betrayed his oath of office and the public trust. He’s made a mockery of the office and even his own impeachment trial, not bothering to show up.
House managers delivered days of testimony from Republican whistleblowers and detailed evidence that Paxton should be impeached for his corruption including abuse of office, bribery, dereliction of duty, and obstruction of justice.
Republican state senators voted on party lines and refused to hold one of their own accountable. Unprincipled birds of a feather flock together. There’s no justice in the acquittal, and we await the results of the federal whistleblower investigation, standing with all Texans who believe no one is above the law.
Kathleen Thompson, executive director at Progress Texas