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For Paxton lawyers, the trial was a “sham.” House managers say it exposed a “corrupt politician.”

By Karen Brooks Harper and Robert Downen, The Texas Tribune

For Paxton lawyers, the trial was a “sham.” House managers say it exposed a “corrupt politician.”” 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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Opposing sides in Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial lashed out in the moments after senators voted Saturday to send the embattled attorney general back to his job.

“It was a joke for us to have to go through this,” said defense attorney Dan Cogdell, who derided the bipartisan House-led impeachment as “a sham.” “This should have never happened.”

House impeachment managers who drove the effort to oust Paxton disagreed, saying in a separate Capitol news conference that it was the vote to acquit that deserved condemnation.

“Managers presented overwhelming evidence that Ken Paxton is the most corrupt politician in the state of Texas at this time,” said Rep. Ann Johnson, a Houston Democrat and vice chair of the House team. “And the Republicans in the Texas Senate just returned him to the office of top cop.”

Before commentary was shut down by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s gag order in mid-July, the opposing sides pulled no punches, hurling accusations of corruption, political power plays and obfuscation.

Freed of the gag order Saturday, the barbs continued — even as the impeachment managers claimed a measure of vindication despite losing every vote on 16 articles of impeachment.

Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, said there was always a “challenging threshold” to meet in what was ultimately a political trial, but he added that the case brought important evidence “into the sunlight” and raised significant questions about Paxton’s fitness for the job.

“This trial painted an accurate and clear picture of an out-of-control attorney general who refused to listen to the desperate warnings of his conservative lawyers that he had entrusted to help run his office,” Murr said. “Mr. Paxton has still never explained why he was so determined to help one person, Nate Paul, over the desperate warnings of his most trusted aides.”

Paxton’s lead attorney, Tony Buzbee, praised the “Herculean effort” by the team in putting together a defense “when we really didn’t even know what we were defending” — a jab at what he regularly called vague, disorganized or made-up accusations. He also thanked the senators for what he characterized as a fair trial.

“We are proud of the case we put on,” Buzbee said. “We should not have had to prove our innocence. But that’s what we did. And we believe that the court reached the right verdict.”

Johnson, on the House side, expressed doubt that the trial was fair, given how Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who presided as judge — bashed the entire process in a post-trial speech from the Senate dais.

Patrick “did seem to have prepared notes ready to attack members of the House and the House process,” she said.

Murr also blasted the “millions of dollars that Mr. Paxton’s apologists have spent to influence and intimidate Texas senators and Texas constituents.”

But Cogdell said that while the defense team was being paid by Paxton, the prosecution was being paid from state funds.“The people that made money from the state are the prosecutors, not us,” he said.

Asked if his checks were coming from Paxton’s campaign or from his personal funds — a question that grew as Paxton solicited campaign donations during the trial, saying the money would help return him to office “by the end of the month” — Cogdell declined to say.“I don’t cross examine it when somebody writes me a check,” he said. “It’s just not my nature.”

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