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Paxton trial updates: Senators could decide AG’s fate later this week

By Texas Tribune Staff, The Texas Tribune

Paxton trial updates: Senators could decide AG’s fate later this week” 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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The historic impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton is underway in the Texas Senate. He faces 16 articles of impeachment that accuse him of misusing the powers of the attorney general’s office to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor who was under federal investigation. Paxton pleaded not guilty to all impeachment articles on the trial’s first day. His defense attorneys have vowed to disprove the accusations and said they will present evidence showing they are based on assumptions, not facts.

Senators could start deliberating Paxton’s fate this week

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick opened the fifth day of the Ken Paxton impeachment trial by saying the jury could begin deliberations as soon as Thursday.

Patrick, the presiding officer of the trial, said each side has about 14 ½ hours left, meaning they “could be out of time on Thursday morning.” That means Paxton’s fate could be in the jury’s hands by “late Thursday or Friday.”

“We will not take a day off until a final resolution,” Patrick said.

The House impeachment managers then called their fifth witness: another Paxton whistleblower named Mark Penley, who was deputy attorney general for criminal justice.

Patrick Svitek

Prosecutors portray Paxton as obsessed while defense says he was betrayed

Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Texas Senate is expected to resume at 9 a.m. Monday. During the first week of proceedings, whistleblowers who reported the suspended attorney general to the FBI for potential criminal activity portrayed Paxton as obsessed with helping friend and political donor Nate Paul, who was under state and federal investigation for his business dealings. House impeachment manager Andrew Murr, a Republican from Junction, said Paxton “turned the keys of the office of attorney general over to Nate Paul.”

Ryan Bangert, Paxton’s former deputy first assistant attorney general, testified that Paxton took an unusual interest in matters involving Paul, such as pressing to overrule two agency decisions that denied Paul access to documents related to an active investigation into Paul’s businesses.

Lead defense lawyer Tony Buzbee equated reporting Paxton to the FBI as an act of betrayal. By going behind the attorney general’s back, he said, Paxton was deprived of the opportunity to answer questions that could have cleared matters up. Defense lawyer Mitch Little picked up the theme during his aggressive questioning of Ryan Vassar, former deputy attorney general for legal counsel, on Thursday.

Little suggested that Paxton was due the courtesy of a warning after nurturing Vassar’s career. More importantly, Little added, failing to let Paxton address their concerns left Vassar and other whistleblowers uninformed when they met with FBI agents to accuse Paxton of criminal acts.

Buzbee argued that impeachment could become a common tactic of political retribution if Paxton — a leading conservative legal voice on abortion, immigration and other key issues — were to be convicted and removed from office. He also argued that impeachment thwarted the will of Texas voters.

Murr rejected arguments that impeachment violated democratic principles, saying the framers of the Texas Constitution did not believe elections alone could protect the public from abusive officeholders.

Chuck Lindell

Disclosure: Tony Buzbee has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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