By PAUL J. WEBER and JAKE BLEIBERG (Associated Press)
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas lawmakers leading the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton made a final appeal Friday to a jury of senators to convict and remove the embattled Republican over accusations of corruption that have shadowed him for years.
“If we don’t keen public officials from abusing the powers of their office, then frankly no one can,” said Republican state Rep. Andrew Murr, one of the bipartisan group of impeachment managers from the Texas House.
Paxton’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, said no wrongdoing had been proved.
“What is this case about? It’s about nothing,” he said.
The two-week trial was speeding to an end as Paxton, shadowed for most of his three terms in office by scandal and criminal charges, faces a defining test of political durability after an impeachment driven by his fellow Republicans that has widened party fractures in America’s biggest red state. The closing arguments were the last chance for impeachment managers to make their case that Paxton is unfit for office over allegations he abused his power to protect a political donor who was under FBI investigation.
Paxton, who until now had only attended the first few hours of the trial and skipped all of the testimony, arrived in the Senate chamber and sat at the defense table minutes before the trial resumed.
“He hasn’t even bothered to be here for the whole trial,” Murr said. “Clearly he thinks he might get away with this.”
Sitting across the room from Paxton was his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, who has attended the entirety of the trial but is barred from participating in deliberations or voting on her husband’s political fate.
The public trial has attracted few onlookers, but with a verdict in sight, the Senate gallery on Friday included three of Paxton’s former deputies who reported him to the FBI in the 2020, accusing him of breaking the law to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. All of them testified, included a former Texas Ranger who testified that he warned Paxton his actions were risking indictment.
One of the impeachment articles centers on an alleged extramarital affair Paxton had with a woman who worked for Paul. In a dramatic scene this week, the woman was called to the witness stand but ultimately never testified. One of the 16 articles of impeachment against Paxton alleges that Paul’s hiring of Olson amounted to a bribe.
The verdict will be decided by 30 state senators, most of them Republicans like Paxton. Convicting him on any of the 16 articles of impeachment requires a two-thirds-majority in the Senate, meaning if all 12 Democrats vote to convict, they would need nine Republicans to join them.
Adding to the extraordinary nature of the proceedings, the Senate includes Paxton’s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, who has attended the duration of the two week trial but is barred from voting.
Deliberations will be done privately. It is unclear how quickly the Senate could reach a verdict, but Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said the trial will continue through the weekend if necessary.
With time running out, Paxton on Thursday pointed to renewed support from Donald Trump, who blasted the impeachment as “shameful” in the waning moments of a trial that has laid bare rifts among Texas Republicans.
“Democrats are feeling very good right now as they watch, as usual, the Republicans fight & eat away at each other. It’s a SAD day in the Great State of Texas!” Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social.
The trial centers on accusations that Paxton abused his power and broke the law to help Paul, who was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks to obtain more than $170 million in loans. Paul has pleaded not guilty.
Paxton was suspended from office pending the trial’s outcome. He has said he will travel to Maine next week to talk with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Like Trump, Paxton is facing an array of legal troubles and the accompanying lawyers’ fees. He remains under federal investigation for the same allegations that gave rise to his impeachment and faces a bar disciplinary proceeding over his effort to overturn the 2020 election.
Paxton has yet to stand trial on state securities fraud charges dating to 2015. He pleaded not guilty in that case, but his lawyers have said removal from office might open the door to a plea agreement.
If convicted, Paxton would become Texas’ first statewide official convicted on impeachment charges in more than 100 years.
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
Find AP’s full coverage of the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at: https://apnews.com/hub/ken-paxton
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