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Paxton trial, Sept. 5: Suspended AG pleads not guilty to all impeachment articles, leaves before afternoon proceedings

By Texas Tribune Staff, The Texas Tribune

Paxton trial, Sept. 5: Suspended AG pleads not guilty to all impeachment articles, leaves before afternoon proceedings” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Editor’s note: Today’s impeachment proceedings have ended and this post will no longer be updated. You can find new articles reporting the latest from Ken Paxton’s trial here.

The historic impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton is underway. He faces 16 articles of impeachment that accuse him of bribery, dereliction of duty and disregard of official duty. Paxton has faced criminal investigations, legal battles and accusations of wrongdoing for years.

Still, Texas voters have twice reelected him, most recently in November. Paxton has long positioned himself as one of the country’s strongest conservative attorneys general. In more than two terms as the state’s top lawyer, he has relentlessly sued the federal government over issues from immigration to health care and the environment. Paxton’s attorneys argue that the impeachment allegations are baseless or fall under the legitimate duties of the attorney general’s office.

The trial is expected to hinge on Paxton’s relationship with a real estate investor and political donor — and could prominently feature details of an alleged extramarital affair. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will act as judge. Witnesses will testify under oath, senator-jurors will deliberate privately and votes will be conducted without public debate. The attorney general’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, will sit as part of the court, but will not vote or deliberate.

Senate hears from Jeff Mateer as first witness

The House impeachment managers called their first witness Tuesday afternoon: Jeff Mateer, the former first assistant attorney general and one of the Paxton whistleblowers.

House lawyer Rusty Hardin spent a considerable amount of time working to establish Mateer’s legal and political credentials.

“Are you a RINO?” Hardin abruptly asked Mateer at one point, using the acronym for “Republican In Name Only.”

Mateer replied that he is “certainly far from right of center” and noted former President Donald Trump nominated him to the federal bench. His nomination failed to advance in the Senate after a report that he had said transgender children are part of “Satan’s plan.”

Hardin also got Mateer to attest to the character of the other whistleblowers who Paxton has since vilified. They were all “committed to the rule of law and conservative governance,” Mateer said.

Mateer’s testimony was cut short, though, as the two sides broke into a dispute over exhibits and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ended the trial for the day. Prior to that, Mateer was starting to elaborate on his discomfort as he watched Paxton make unusual moves on behalf of real estate investor and political donor Nate Paul.

Mateer said he was confused when he learned that Paxton planned to argue a motion in a Travis County District Court case involving Paul and a charity. He said while Paxton has many talents, he is “not a litigator,” and said it was inconceivable that a sitting attorney general would attend to such a small matter.

Mateer said he scheduled a meeting with Paxton, where he discouraged Paxton from proceeding further with the case.

“I urged him not to have any further dealings with Nate Paul,” Mateer said, adding that Paxton “committed to that” and “seemed sincere to me.”

But the next day, Mateer said he was surprised to learn Paxton was still trying to intervene himself.

An article of impeachment alleges that Paxton directed the attorney general’s office to intervene in the case solely to help Paul gain a better settlement with the charity, the Mitte Foundation. Paul had previously defaulted on a $10.5 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit with the charity.

Patrick Svitek and Zach Despart

House impeachment managers make their case

Impeachment trial prosecution lawyers Dick DeGuerin, Rusty Hardin and Harriet O’Neill exit the Senate floor during recess on the first day of the impeachment trial for suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023 in Austin.
Impeachment trial prosecution lawyers Dick DeGuerin, Rusty Hardin and Harriet O’Neill exit the Senate floor during a recess on the first day of the impeachment trial. Credit: Eli Hartman/The Texas Tribune

In opening statements, House impeachment managers outlined what they said was a pattern of “deceit” and alleged crimes committed by Attorney General Ken Paxton as he sought to benefit his friend and donor, real estate investor Nate Paul.

The misconduct, they alleged, “turned the keys” of the attorney general’s office over to Paul, who returned the favor by helping Paxton hide an alleged extramarital affair, among other alleged favors that Paxton tried to conceal.

In a 17-minute speech, state Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction) also pushed back against some of Paxton’s key defenses, including his claims that he can’t be impeached for conduct that predated his most recent election, and his attorneys’ arguments that his conduct was either in line with his office’s duties or does not warrant impeachment.

Murr argued that Paxton’s conduct need not be criminal to justify his removal from office.

“We don’t have to show some type of quid pro quo to establish that his conduct warrants impeachment,” Murr said. “Wrongs justifying impeachment don’t have to be crimes. Wrongs justifying the impeachment are broader than that because they have the purpose of protecting the state, not punishing the offender.”

— Robert Downen

Defense attorneys fire back against allegations and evidence

Ken Paxton’s lawyer Tony Buzbee during during opening statements on the Senate floor during the first day of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial, on Sept. 5, 2023.
Ken Paxton’s lawyer Tony Buzbee during opening statements on the Senate floor during the first day of the suspended attorney general’s impeachment trial. Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

In a fiery response to the House impeachment managers’ opening statements, Ken Paxton’s lawyer Tony Buzbee argued that “this whole case is a whole lot of nothing.”

In a nearly hour-long speech, Buzbee and defense attorney Dan Cogdell made sweeping promises that he and his legal team will disprove accusations in the impeachment articles by showing photos of home renovations and documents that refute allegations, including that Paxton’s political donor Nate Paul paid for his home renovations, and claiming there is no evidence that Paxton used burner phones or secret emails to communicate, as alleged by the House managers.

Paxton’s lawyers also said many of the allegations are based on assumptions that will be disproven — and vowed that there is not enough evidence on any count to prove the attorney general’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Buzbee criticized the media and the gag order imposed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that prevented Paxton and his lawyers from responding to allegations and media reports leading up to the trial.

He and Cogdell also made a political argument that if the Senate votes to impeach and remove Paxton from office, they are undermining the will of the voters who elected him, while detailing Paxton’s conservative record as attorney general.

“What happens here will have consequences no matter how it turns out,” Buzbee said. “If this misguided effort is successful, which I am confident it will not be, the precedent would be perilous for any elected official.”

Kate McGee

Paxton absent from afternoon proceedings

Ken Paxton was absent from his impeachment proceedings as they resumed after a scheduled lunch break Tuesday, signaling that the suspended attorney general may not always be present for the remainder of the trial.

Impeachment prosecutor Rusty Hardin asked where Paxton was, arguing that he should be required to appear as a defendant would in a criminal trial.

But Paxton’s lawyer, Tony Buzbee, argued that the rules stipulated Paxton arrive at the start of the trial Tuesday morning, but did not require him to stay the entire day once he entered his plea of not guilty.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the presiding officer over the impeachment trial, concurred with Buzbee’s interpretation. Senate rules give Patrick broad power to enforce Senate-approved rules for the trial.

— Kate McGee

Paxton pleads not guilty to all 16 articles of impeachment

Attorney General Ken Paxton has pleaded not guilty to each of the 16 articles of impeachment as his lead attorney, Tony Buzbee, called the accusations “incorrect” and “false.”

“Those allegations are flat-out false,” Buzbee said in response to Article 9, which accuses the suspended attorney general of benefiting from real estate investor Nate Paul’s decision to hire a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair.

“Those allegations are offensive, false,” Buzbee said of Article 10, which alleges that Paxton received bribes from Paul in the form of home renovations.

Impeachment prosecutor Rusty Hardin then objected to Buzbee’s commentary, saying Paxton should only be allowed to enter a guilty or not guilty plea. The motion was sustained.

— Robert Downen

Senators overwhelmingly refuse to dismiss articles of impeachment

In a 24-6 vote, Texas senators refused to dismiss all 16 articles of impeachment against suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton. That vote clears the way for a public trial in the Senate.

Twelve Republicans joined all Senate Democrats in the vote to essentially move forward with a trial. A simple majority is required to approve any pretrial motions, and Paxton’s team challenged all articles of impeachment both individually and altogether in a series of filings.

In a 22-8 vote, senators rejected a pretrial motion to exclude all evidence before January 2023.

Senators also took individual votes to dismiss certain impeachment articles or to temporarily hold some articles in abeyance. They resoundingly rejected all motions for dismissal. Six Republican senators voted yes on every motion to dismiss, while five Republican senators voted to dismiss some of the impeachment articles. Seven Republican senators voted no on all of the motions, along with all Democratic senators.

Senators also rejected a motion from Paxton’s team to exclude evidence gathered “in violation of the law.”

Robert Downen and Kate McGee

Paxton won’t be forced to testify

Suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton cannot be forced to testify during his impeachment trial, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ruled Tuesday.

The Senate-approved rules for the trial gave Patrick, who is acting as the presiding officer, or judge, the power to issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses.

Paxton’s attorneys asked to excuse him from testifying, arguing that the trial is a criminal proceeding, giving the attorney general the same legal protections as a criminal defendant who would not be forced to testify.

Patrick said Tuesday that the rules adopted by the Senate apply many of the same rules reserved for criminal cases, including the requirement that Paxton plead guilty or not guilty. He added that House impeachment managers are required to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard also used in criminal trials.

“The House managers have repeatedly compared actions of the House of Representatives to a grand jury as they prefer the articles of impeachment,” Patrick said. “Grand juries are utilized only in criminal cases.”

Kate McGee

Ken Paxton arrives on Senate floor

Ken Paxton arrived on the Texas Senate floor around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and huddled with his attorneys. It was previously unclear wheter Paxton would be present for his impeachment trial, and his attorneys have vowed that he will not testify.

Under Senate trial rules approved in June, the presiding officer — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — has the power to issue subpoenas compelling witnesses to attend. In one of Paxton’s lawyers pretrial motions, however, they asked that he be carved out of that provision, arguing that Paxton is entitled to the same rights to not testify as a defendant in a criminal proceeding.

House impeachment managers have opposed that motion, and have said that Paxton still has the right to plead the Fifth Amendment.

Robert Downen

Angela Paxton salutes supporters in Senate gallery

Attorney General Ken Paxton‘s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, made an appearance on the Texas Senate floor shortly before his impeachment trial began Tuesday morning.

The McKinney Republican waved to people who called out her name from the gallery above the chamber floor. She also saluted another group of supporters in the gallery.

State Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, waves to the gallery from the floor of the Senate on Sept. 5, 2023.
State Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, waves to the gallery from the floor of the Senate on Sept. 5, 2023. Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

Under impeachment trial rules, Angela Paxton can attend the proceedings but cannot vote or participate in deliberations. She voted against those rules. Much of the proceedings could center on her husband’s alleged extramarital affair.

Her appearance on the Senate floor came as the other senators were apparently meeting to get ready for the 9 a.m. start.

— Patrick Svitek

[Who’s who in the Ken Paxton impeachment trial, from key participants to potential witnesses]

Sam Houston Bible used to swear in trial participants

Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial began with a prayer from Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford, who asked for guidance and direction for all those involved in the proceedings.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht swore in Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Lana Meyers, a former state appellate judge who is serving as legal counsel for Patrick, on the Sam Houston Bible.

Senate Secretary Patsy Spaw carries the Sam Houston Bible used for swearing in senators before suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial begins on Sept. 5, 2023.
Senate Secretary Patsy Spaw carries the Sam Houston Bible used for swearing in senators before suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial begins on Tuesday. Credit: Juan Figueroa/Pool via The Dallas Morning News

Legend claims that the Bible, bound in brown sheepskin, was owned by Sam Houston and gifted to the Texas Supreme Court. It has been previously used during state inaugurations and other important occasions.

“This is a significant and serious occasion that will be in the history books, and I thought it was appropriate to bring out the Sam Houston Bible not just for myself but each member of the Senate, the jurors,” Patrick said.

Patrick proceeded to individually swear in each member of the Senate using the same Bible, who repeated the following oath:

“I do solemnly swear or affirm that I will impartially try Warren Kenneth Paxton, Jr., attorney general of Texas, upon the impeachment charges submitted to me by the House of Representatives and a true verdict render according to the law, and the evidence, so help me God.”

Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, was not sworn in. While she is a sitting member of the jury, she cannot vote in the impeachment trial or participate in private deliberations.

Kate McGee

Donald Trump Jr. says Paxton will “survive” impeachment trial

Donald Trump Jr. has weighed in on the impeachment trial, saying Paxton will “survive” and continue to “combat the Swamp.”

“I’m looking forward to the upcoming 2024 primary season. RINO hunting season starts soon!!!” Trump Jr. wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Paxton is a longtime ally of the Trump family, though former President Donald Trump has remained mostly silent about Paxton’s impeachment since May, when he decried it as an attack on “American Patriots.” Paxton tried to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in four states where President Joe Biden had won the election.

Paxton’s supporters have sought to frame the impeachment as an attack on conservative values by Republicans In Name Only — RINOs — who they claim are working with Democrats in the Texas House. At a rare public appearance on Saturday, Paxton, blasted the lower chamber that impeached him and name-checked its leader, Speaker Dade Phelan.

Robert Downen

The attorney general faces 16 articles of impeachment

The Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton in May. The chamber, held by a Republican majority, adopted 20 articles of impeachment. The Senate, which is also controlled by the GOP, will hear evidence on 16 articles. The other four articles were put on hold.

The 16 articles accuse Paxton of bribery, dereliction of duty and disregard of official duty. Nearly 4,000 pages of evidence provide granular detail of how Paxton allegedly misused his office to help his friend Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor and campaign donor, who was being investigated by federal authorities as his businesses were floundering. Read more about the 16 articles of impeachment.

Chuck Lindell and James Barragán

Here’s how the impeachment trial will operate

From left: Nathan Hecht, chief justice of Texas Supreme Court, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and former judge Lana Myers, the legal counsel for the presiding officer, stand at the dais before the first day of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Texas Senate chambers at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stands at the dais on the first day of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Senate. Credit: Juan Figueroa/Pool via The Dallas Morning News

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will act as judge. Senators will serve as jurors. The trial will begin with the court clerk reading aloud 16 articles of impeachment. Paxton has been ordered to appear in person. He or his lawyer will plead guilty or not guilty to each article. Some witnesses have also been ordered to appear outside the Senate chamber at 11 a.m.

Any motion to dismiss an article of impeachment must be approved by a majority of senators, or at least 16 members. Patrick can rule on any other motion, or he can ask senators to vote on a motion without debate or discussion. Permanently removing Paxton requires support from 21 of 31 senators. His wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, will not vote.

The House impeachment managers will offer an opening statement first. Paxton’s lawyers can make a statement immediately afterward or wait until they begin presenting evidence. Each side has a total of 24 hours to present witnesses and evidence and cross-examine the opposition’s witnesses. After both sides present their evidence, each side will have one hour to present rebuttal evidence. Witnesses will testify under oath. Read more about how the trial will work.

Yuriko Schumacher and James Barragán

Paxton’s alleged extramarital affair could play key role

Much of the trial is expected to center on Ken Paxton’s alleged infidelity. Sordid details about his life could be publicly aired during the proceedings. House impeachment managers argue that Paxton was driven by his desire to continue and conceal the tryst and went to great lengths to hide the affair from his wife — and from the deeply religious voters who have sustained his political life for two decades. His wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, will sit as part of the impeachment trial court, but will not vote or deliberate.

Robert Downen and Zach Despart

A political donor is at the center of many accusations

Ken Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, a political donor to the suspended attorney general, is expected to be a central focus of the impeachment trial. Paxton is accused of misusing his office to help Paul in return for free home renovations and the investor’s help covering up the attorney general’s extramarital affair. Earlier this year, Paul was charged with eight felony counts of making false statements to financial institutions.

The House impeachment managers allege Paxton hired a lawyer to carry out Paul’s bidding — allowing him to use the attorney general’s office as his “concierge law firm,” and harness its investigative powers to harass business rivals and other perceived enemies.

Zach Despart

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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