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Paxton trial updates: Texas Senate begins hearing impeachment arguments

By Texas Tribune Staff, The Texas Tribune

Paxton trial updates: Texas Senate begins hearing impeachment arguments” 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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Ken 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.

But in May, the Texas House impeached Paxton on accusations of bribery, dereliction of duty and disregard of official duty. On Tuesday, the suspended attorney general’s trial in the Texas Senate begins. Paxton’s latest political battle comes after he has faced criminal investigations, legal battles and accusations of wrongdoing for years. Still, Texas voters have twice reelected him, most recently in November.

The trial is expected to hinge on his relationship with a real estate investor and political donor — and could prominently feature details of an alleged extramarital affair. Paxton’s attorneys argue that the allegations are baseless or fall under the legitimate duties of the attorney general’s office.

Watch Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial live

Suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Texas Senate is expected to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday. You can watch the proceedings here.

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

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.

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

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

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