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'The truth prevailed' | Lawmakers, politicians react to Ken Paxton's acquittal in impeachment trial

The allegations against Paxton ranged from bribery to disregard of duty and misuse of power.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas senators on Saturday acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 impeachment articles in his trial, allowing him to return to office immediately.

A two-thirds vote in favor of finding Paxton guilty was required to sustain any of the impeachment articles, but none of the votes reached that threshold, or even a majority in favor of guilty.

Most of the articles were voted down 16-14, though one failed 28-2 and another failed 22-8.

Texas senators debated from around noon Friday and into the evening hours, before returning to the Capitol for more deliberations Saturday morning. Around 9:45 a.m., Texas Senate officials announced that senators were ready to vote. An initially scheduled vote for 10:30 a.m. was pushed to 11:10 a.m.

The senators then began voting on each article of impeachment individually, writing "yay" or "nay" on a piece of paper. A clerk would then read each senator's vote aloud to the crowd, and then Patrick would confirm each senator's vote.

By 1 p.m., Paxton, who was not present for the vote, was acquitted on all articles of impeachment.

Paxton had faced 20 articles of impeachment, but senators were only hearing 16 of the articles in the trial, which spanned nearly two weeks at the Texas Capitol in Austin. 

Here is how Texas lawmakers reacted to the verdict: 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan

“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 Governor Greg Abbott

"The jury has spoken. Attorney General Ken Paxton received a fair trial as required by the Texas Constitution. I look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General to secure the border and protect Texas from federal overreach."

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

“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.”

Texas GOP

"The Texas Senate voted today to reject all 20 articles of impeachment brought by the House against Attorney General Ken Paxton. 

Republican Part of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi 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. 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 out common goals, instead of sharing power withy Democrats who use it to persecute our Republican statewide officer 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."

Texas House Democratic Caucus: 

"The Texas Senate failed to convict Attorney General Ken Paxton for any one of sixteen presented articles of impeachment concerning bribery, dereliction of duty, disregard of official duty, and obstruction of justice. Earlier this May, the Texas House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 121 to 23, to impeach Ken Paxton.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) issued the following statement: 

“Impeachments are both rare and very serious—as they should be. The House of Representatives had a duty, required under the Constitution, to make a determination if there was sufficient evidence to support impeachment and trial by the Senate. The evidence was clear and damning: Ken Paxton put himself before the people of Texas. 

The essence of our democratic system lies in the belief that elected officials exist solely to serve the interests of the people. When that trust is violated, the very foundation of our government is undermined. It is our duty as representatives of the people to restore and protect that trust, for without it, our government cannot fulfill its vital role. The people of Texas deserve nothing less.

The Texas Senate’s inability to see through the fog of politics does not change the facts that are now etched in the granite of the Texas Capitol. The Office of Attorney General is not serving the 30 million people of Texas, it is serving one man: Ken Paxton. And it now rests on the people of Texas to serve as the ultimate and final jury—they will have their say on those who place cheap politics over honesty, dignity, and integrity."

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa: 

“It’s clear that the fix was in from the beginning, and that as long as Republicans control our government, Republican elected officials won’t face consequences for ethical or criminal offenses. In true Texas Republican fashion, Paxton crime organization beneficiary Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and his Republican minions placed the reputation of their friend and the will of his campaign donors above the rule of law. After eight days of damning testimony detailing corruption, lies, and abuse of power, and thousands of pages of grueling evidence – the Texas Senate voted to acquit Ken Paxton of his crimes and allowed him to retain his office. 

“Today, one fact was made abundantly clear to the majority of Texans: there is no justice as long as Republicans remain in control of our state. Ken Paxton did nothing short of weaponizing the Attorney General’s office to benefit his wealthy friend that bankrolled his campaign and subsidized his extramarital affair. And now, our criminally indicted Texas Attorney General will continue his reign as Texas’ top criminal without facing any accountability whatsoever.

“This is an enormously sad day in Texas history. From the start of this trial, Ken Paxton (also known affectionately as ‘Dave P’) and his defense hid from the truth – and Dan Patrick protected him every step of the way. Leaving out key witnesses such as Laura Olson, and shielding Paxton himself from testifying, denied the public access to the truth of the extent of Paxton’s crimes. In what American judicial proceeding would a judge be allowed to preside over a court while a $2 million campaign loan from the defendant hung over his head? Republicans don’t respect the rule of law - their morals are based on self-enrichment and codifying the suffering of working people. 

“Above all else, Texans deserve better. Paxton is not an honest or honorable man. He has brought great shame to the Attorney General’s office and the state of Texas. But make no mistake – as Paxton takes his “victory” lap to Maine with Tucker Carlson – the Texas Democratic Party is focused on recruiting, resourcing and training for candidates and local leaders so that the likes of Ken Paxton are never elected to represent a single Texan again. The campaign to bring justice to the Attorney General’s office, and hold the leaders of the Paxton crime organization accountable, begins today.” 

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz

"Congrats to @KenPaxtonTX on being acquitted of every single article of impeachment.  This was the right outcome, consistent with the will of the voters. I look forward to seeing Paxton back in office, continuing to serve as the most effective conservative AG in America."

Texas Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston):

"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.” Senator Bettencourt stated. “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.” He added. “This is the reason why I voted against all pre-trial motions.” He remarked. “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!”

Texas State Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian):

"Speaker Phelan must step down now for empowering this Democrat effort while killing Republican priorities. I am also demanding the State Auditor investigate how much tax money this wasted."

Full statement below:

Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio)

“A broken and corrupt system allowed Ken Paxton to abuse the powers of his office. Hard-right Republicans decided today that it’s okay to take bribes and lie to the public, as long as you are the Republican Attorney General of Texas. People elected to office are sworn to an oath to protect all the citizens under their charge, not their ultra wealthy, well-connected friends. Today, Texas Republicans decided that the corruption and lies of people like Ken Paxton and Ted Cruz are fine by them,” stated Senator Roland Gutierrez.

“Texas cannot take any more lies, scams, or neglect from Republican charlatans. Our system is broken by Republicans who are only paying lip service to our families while looking out for themselves.”

“This is the same cover up I saw in Uvalde, Texas is riddled with it. I am going to keep fighting corruption in the State of Texas. I’m mad as hell and I know plenty of Texans who feel that way too. I’m ready to get back out there and work to get our state back on the right track.”

Chairman of Collin County Republican Party Abraham George

"4.2 Million Votes resonate deeply in Texas! This monumental triumph is a resounding win for dedicated grassroots Republicans. Let's channel this energy into addressing the vital concerns of everyday Texans: our economy, border security, inflation, school safety, ending property tax and the revitalization of our infrastructure. The precious time and resources squandered by our own representatives in this political theater could have been harnessed to address our foremost priorities. When even our House members struggle to get Democrat support for impeachment articles, it's an unequivocal call to clean the Texas House. Starts now!"

Beto O'Rourke

"Texas Republicans just acquitted Ken Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment. They think corruption and authoritarianism can win out in Texas. It’s on us to prove them wrong."

Texas State Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin)

"No matter the outcome of these impeachment proceedings, we all know that @KenPaxtonTX is guilty of crimes & abuse of office. The political theater that we witnessed over the last several days & the ultimate vote do not change reality—they only confirm a broken system. #txlege"

Watch more analysis of the verdict here on WFAA's YouTube channel.

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