The Texas Senate’s court of impeachment acquitted suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 charges against him, and dismissed the remaining four held in abeyance. The deliberations took roughly 24 hours but when push came to shove, the votes didn’t near conviction on any article.
Paxton will now resume his duties as attorney general and the news brought a cascade of reactions from Texas officials across the state.
“Today, the truth prevailed. The truth could not be buried by mudslinging politicians or their powerful benefactors,” Paxton said in a statement. “I’ve said many times: Seek the truth! And that is what was accomplished.”
He then took aim at Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), saying, “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.”
Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), could not vote in the proceedings but was present for the whole trial.
“[The House] sent something over half-baked and it costs the taxpayers a lot of money,” she said.
Former president Donald Trump once again came to Paxton’s defense and called for Phelan’s resignation.
“Attorney General Paxton was fully acquitted on all 16 Impeachment Articles brought by the Texas Republican House. It is time that Speaker Dade Phelan resign after pushing this Disgraceful Sham!” Trump posted on social media.
Breaking his silence, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick admonished the Texas House for the way it conducted the impeachment inquiry and vote.
“Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment,” Patrick said, calling for reforms to the Texas Constitution regarding impeachment such as eliminating the automatic suspension rule.
He also called for a full audit of what both chambers spent during this impeachment proceedings.
In his own statement, Phelan responded in kind, “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.”
State Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction), chair of the House Board of Managers, said at a press conference, “Please note that a two-thirds majority was a difficult threshold to meet, especially given the millions of dollars Mr. Paxton’s backers spent to pressure senators to vote against this impeachment.”
Murr then doubled down on the charges brought against the attorney general and Paxton’s alleged corruption.
Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) — who was mentioned in one of the charges against Paxton concerning the “midnight opinion” as the “straw requester” — said, “Today, after listening to more than 45 hours of testimony and reviewing thousands of pages of documents, it’s clear the prosecution failed to meet the burden necessary to overrule the will of the voters.”
“These brave public servants put themselves at risk to stick up for what was right,” he added, defending the whistleblowers.
Notably, Gov. Greg Abbott has been completely silent on the impeachment proceedings since they were made public. He broke his silence today, welcoming Paxton back to his post.
“The jury has spoken,” Abbott said. “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.”
Republican Party of Texas Chair Matt Rinaldi, who’s backed Paxton through the entire process, said, “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.”
“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.”
Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) — who was one of the swing votes on the initial bevy of motions to dismiss articles at the trial’s outset — said, “Simply put, the burden of proof — beyond a reasonable doubt — was not met.”
“Impeachment is a powerful political tool that should be judiciously, thoughtfully, and rarely used.”
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) added, “This case was difficult and the highest vote any legislator will ever take. In the end, the House Managers did not meet the heavy burden of proof, which in this case is 'beyond a reasonable doubt.' My decision was reached after careful consideration and review of all evidence and witness testimony.”
Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) said after the vote that some Republican senators flipped from “yeas” to “nays” on the final tally compared with their intentions during deliberations when it became clear they would not reach the 21 necessary to convict.
But two Republicans, Sens. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) and Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), broke with their party and voted to sustain many of the articles. Hancock released a statement after the vote.
“It was my constitutional obligation to seek the truth based on the facts made available through witness testimony and all documents admitted into evidence, then vote accordingly. My vote on each article reflects that responsibility, and none was taken lightly,” he said.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, which had been accused by the Paxton team of orchestrating the impeachment, said, “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.”