AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Closing arguments were set to begin Friday in the historic impeachment trial that could remove Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from office over corruption allegations. It will soon go the jury of 30 senators, most of them Republicans like him.
The impeachment charges against Paxton center on allegations that the three-term incumbent improperly used the powers of his office to protect Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who was indicted in June on federal charges of making false statements to banks.
Senators heard from some of Paxton’s former top aides who reported him to the FBI. They detailed their concerns about Paxton’s efforts to help Paul, including an alleged extramarital affair, burner phones and arguments over who paid for kitchen countertops in Paxton’s home renovation project.
Defense attorneys called four of Paxton’s current employees who testified they have seen Paxton do nothing wrong and are proud to work for him.
Paxton was suspended from office when he was impeached. If senators convict him of any one of the 16 articles of impeachment, he will be permanently removed. If acquitted, he returns to his job.
A look at what has happened so far and what comes next:
House Republican impeachment managers and Paxton’s defense team were each given 24 hours over the last two weeks to present evidence.
The House managers spent their time trying to methodically lay out their corruption case. An initial witness list of more than 100 names was whittled down to about 20. Most were former Paxton aides who were suspicious of his business relationship with Paul and his romantic one with Lisa Olson, who worked for Paul.
They told of taking their concerns to the FBI and how Paxton’s extramarital affair might explain why Paxton seemed so determined to help Paul fend of the federal investigation that would eventually lead to Paul’s indictment on fraud charges.
“I witnessed Attorney General Ken Paxton do brazen things on behalf of Nate Paul. He abused the entire office of the attorney general of Texas to benefit Nate Paul,” former Deputy Attorney General Blake Brickman said, “and it got worse and worse and worse.”
The dramatic moment the trial did not get: testimony from Olson. The relationship was considered central to the bribery charge. Olson came to the Capitol on Wednesday and was called as a witness, but ultimately did not have to take the stand.
Olson’s exit deflated a potentially dramatic afternoon as she didn’t have to face televised, public questioning about the relationship as Paxton’s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, sat in the room.
Ken Paxton is not required to attend all of the proceedings and has not been there since the lunch break on opening day Sept. 5. Angela Paxton, however, has listened to every witness.
THE SENATE JURY
The Texas Constitution set the 31-member Senate as the impeachment trial jury and all were required to attend. But only 30 will determine Ken Paxton’s fate.
Angela Paxton is barred from voting or participating in deliberations because of her conflict of interest as the attorney general’s wife.
A conviction requires a two-thirds majority, or 21 votes, of the 31 members present. Anything short of that means acquittal. Republicans hold a 19-12 Senate majority. Even if all Democrats vote to convict Paxton, they still need nine Republicans to join them.
Deliberations will be done in private. The final vote will be a slow, public process. Each article of impeachment gets a separate vote. A conviction on just one count would remove him from office.
Early votes on the trial’s first day did not go Paxton’s way. His attempts to dismiss all charges before the evidence was heard were rejected, with most carrying the 21-vote margin.
But those early votes also showed Paxton had the support of at least six Republicans, who could be pushing others to join them.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Paxton’s political career is on the line. He could be booted from office and barred from any elected Texas position in the future.
Paxton has become a darling among conservatives nationally as he backed Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 electoral victory and filed numerous lawsuits against the Biden administration.
Like Trump, Paxton has claimed he was the victim of a politically motivated investigation. His defense attorneys have even suggested a Republican plot to oust him.
Paxton’s impeachment has fractured the Texas Republican Party. A Republican-majority House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him, while mostly Republican House managers led the prosecution.
Paxton is just the third state official to be impeached in Texas’ nearly 200-year history, and the first statewide officeholder since former Gov. James “Pa” Ferguson in 1917, who resigned the day before he was convicted.
Find AP’s full coverage of the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at: https://apnews.com/hub/ken-paxton