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Vindicated: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton acquitted on all 16 charges by state senate

In what amounted to a powerful showing of innocence, the Texan Republican senate majority voted to acquit Paxton, permitting him to return to his office immediately and finish out his third term

Texas House of Representatives
Texas House of Representatives | Shutterstock

September 16, 2023 2:36pm

Updated: September 16, 2023 2:37pm

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted by the Texas state Senate on all 16 articles of impeachment related to accusations of bribery, dereliction of duty, and disregard of official duty, Saturday morning.

In what amounted to a powerful showing of innocence, the Texan Republican senate majority voted to acquit Paxton, permitting him to return to his office immediately and finish out his third term.

He was suspended without pay since late May.

Paxton’s acquittal came after eight days of testimony from numerous witnesses, many of whom said the Lonestar attorney general abused his power during his second term.

Paxton was in the chamber before votes were read, but left the room as votes were cast.

The senate chamber remained quiet during the voting process except for visitors coming and going from the gallery, sounds of lightning and thunder outside, and the counting of votes.

Paxton’s acquittal was a devastating surprise to the House managers who brought the case.

The Senate jury deliberations started beginning shortly before noon local time Friday, going for nearly 23 hours. Texan senators reconvened around 11 a.m. Saturday and voted for about and hour and 45 minutes.

The 31-person Senate has 19 Republicans and a dozen democrats, including the attorney general's wife, Sen. Angela Paxton who was recused from voting on any of the pre-trial motions or articles, which made it harder for the Senate to rally the 21 votes necessary to convict on each charge.

Paxton's lead defense lawyer, Tony Buzbee, said during closing arguments that the prosecution had brought a case "with no evidence" as part of a "political witch hunt within the Republican Party."

Republican state Rep. Andrew Murr, House Board of Impeachment Managers chairman told jurors during his closing argument that they acquitted Paxton would send the wrong message to the attorney general and other politicians about abuse of power issues.

"He has betrayed us and the people of Texas, and if he's given the opportunity, he will continue to abuse the power given to him," Murr warned.

Paxton was impeached by the House in May on 20 articles of impeachment, but the Senate only decided to hear charges on 16 articles.

The attorney general was accused of using his power to help Nate Paul, a real estate developer.

The 16 articles of impeachment and the final verdict on each charge are below.

ARTICLE 1: Disregard of Official Duty - Protection of Charitable Organization: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton had employees of his office interfere in a lawsuit filed by the Roy F. & JoAnn Cole Mitte Foundation against corporate entities controlled by Nate Paul. Paxton allegedly harmed the Mitte Foundation to benefit Paul.

ARTICLE 2: Disregard of Official Duty - Abuse of the Opinion Process: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton caused employees of his office to prepare an opinion to avoid the foreclosure sales of properties belonging to Nate Paul or entities run by Paul. Paxton hid his actions by soliciting the chair of a senate committee to act as a front-requestor. Paxton allegedly told staff to reverse their legal conclusion to help Paul.

ARTICLE 3: Disregard of Official Duty - Abuse of the Open Records Process: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton asked employees to act illegally by refusing to issue a decision relating to a public information request for records held by the Department of Public Safety. He allegedly also issued a decision involving another public information request that was against the law and precedent.

ARTICLE 4: Disregard of Official Duty - Misuse of Official Information: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton improperly got access to information held by his office that was not publicly disclosed just to benefit Nate Paul.

ARTICLE 5: Disregard of Official Duty - Engagement of Cammack: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton hired attorney Brandon Cammack to investigate a baseless complaint, during which Cammack issued more than 30 grand jury subpoenas to help Nate Paul's business entities.

ARTICLE 6 Disregard of Official Duty - Termination of Whistleblowers: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton fired employees who reported his actions to law enforcement officials. Paxton fired the employees without good cause or due process for reporting his illegal acts and improper conduct. Paxton also allegedly engaged in a campaign to impugn the employees' professional reputations or harm their future employment.

ARTICLE 7: Misapplication of Public Resources - Whistleblower Investigation and Report: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton told employees of his office to conduct a phony investigation into whistleblower complaints made by employees whom Paxton fired to publish a report with false statements in the AG’s defense.

ARTICLE 8: Disregard of Official Duty - Settlement Agreement: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton entered into a settlement agreement with the whistleblowers, providing for payment of the settlement from public funds. The settlement stayed the wrongful termination suit and delayed discovery to Paxton's advantage. This allegedly deprived voters the opportunity to make an informed decision.

ARTICLE 9: Constitutional Bribery - Paul's Employment of Mistress: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton benefited from Nate Paul's employment of a woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair. Paul was the beneficiary of legal assistance from the attorney general.

ARTICLE 10: Constitutional Bribery - Paul's Providing Renovations to Paxton Home: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton benefited from Nate Paul renovating Paxton's home. Paul received legal assistance from the attorney general.

ARTICLES XI, XII, XIII, XIV were not included in the Senate trial, and were dismissed as part of a single vote following the 16 articles of impeachment.

ARTICLE 15: False Statements in Official Records - Whistleblower Response Report: Acquitted The accusation: Paxton made multiple misleading statements in the report issued by his office in response to whistleblower accusations.

ARTICLE 16: Conspiracy and Attempted Conspiracy: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton acted with others to conspire to commit acts.

ARTICLE 17: Misappropriation of Public Resources: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton misused his official powers by causing employees to perform services for his benefit and others.

ARTICLE 18: Dereliction of Duty: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton violated the Texas Constitution, his oaths of office, statutes, and public policy against public officials not acting in the public interest.

ARTICLE 19: Unfitness for Office: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton engaged in misconduct, private or public, of such character as to indicate he was unfit for office.

ARTICLE 20: Abuse of Public Trust: Acquitted 
The accusation: Paxton used, misused, or failed to use his official powers in a way designed to subvert the lawful operation of the Texan government and obstruct fair and impartial administration of justice, thus casting a shadow of scandal upon the Office of Attorney General.