After eight days of testimony from informants alleging corruption and defense attorneys asserting that he did nothing wrong, closing statements in the impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton were scheduled for Friday.
The trial, in which the Republican-controlled Texas Senate serves as the jury, pits conservative Republican firebrand Paxton against 16 counts of impeachment. Paxton is closely connected with former U.S. President Donald Trump. The trial has been dubbed a political witch hunt by Paxton.
In the event that at least two-thirds of the Texas Senate, which consists of 19 Republicans, including Paxton’s wife, who is not permitted to vote, and 12 Democrats, agree to convict on any count, Paxton, who has been suspended from office pending the conclusion of the trial, might be permanently removed from office. In Texas, there hasn’t been a statewide officeholder impeached in more than a century.
The senators will continue deliberating in private for as long as they like after Friday morning’s closing arguments. After they meet behind closed doors, their votes will be made public.
Several former top aides have accused Paxton of corruption and abuse of power, mostly in connection with alleged official acts taken to shield a powerful political donor who was the subject of a federal investigation and to hide an extramarital affair.
The trial has highlighted divisions within the Texas Republican Party between social conservatives who have been in power for the past ten years and support Paxton and traditional conservatives who believe his activities have brought the party and the state into disrepute. The Republican-controlled Texas House overwhelmingly impeached Paxton in May.
Since his initial election in 2014, Paxton, who is also the subject of an FBI investigation and is also facing a separate state securities fraud trial, has been hounded by charges of corruption. Even still, in a primary he comfortably defeated George P. Bush, a classic conservative candidate, and a Democrat in the general election last November.
The former top aides who accused Paxton of corruption have been portrayed as mutinous political centrists by Paxton’s defense team. Each of the aides who turned into whistleblowers was called to the stand by the prosecution, who first established their conservative credentials before they testified about what they saw in the attorney general’s office that prompted them to report their suspicions to the FBI in 2020.
In response, Paxton’s attorneys presented testimony from current state officials who said that the actions that the whistle blowers suspected were illegal were within his authority as attorney general.
As attorney general, Paxton supported significant oil and gas interests and worked to limit transgender and abortion rights. He has led Republican state opposition to Democratic presidents’ policies and sought an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election.
Paxton’s insistence that House legislators approve a $3.3 million settlement he struck with former staff workers who were let go after accusing him of abusing his position led to his impeachment. The settlement was not funded by state legislators.