Most senators had left the Texas Capitol by 8 p.m. Sept. 15. This means there is not yet a verdict in suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial.
Deliberations are set to resume at 9 a.m. Sept. 16. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he would provide at least 30-minutes notice before senators begin voting on the 16 impeachment charges.
What you need to know
After eight days of testimony, the fate of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton is in the hands of 30 state senators.
The senators, who have served as jurors throughout the trial, left the Texas Senate chamber around 11:55 a.m. Sept. 15. They will deliberate until they reach a decision on the 16 articles of impeachment against Paxton.
Senators will then vote on each individual article. If 21 of the 30 eligible senators vote to convict Paxton on any of the charges, he will immediately be removed from office. A conviction will be followed by a vote to bar Paxton from holding any future public office.
The attorney general’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, was present for the trial but is not allowed to participate in deliberations or vote on the charges, due to a conflict of interest.
“You have serious work to do, and I believe that you will do it in a serious and responsible fashion,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the trial, told the senators.
How it happened
Paxton sat quietly in the Senate chamber as lawyers from both sides presented their closing arguments. Paxton has not been present since the first day of the trial, when Patrick ruled he would not be forced to testify.
Paxton, a third-term Republican, is the first statewide elected official in Texas to be impeached and face removal from office in over a century.
He is accused of abusing his office to help Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor and campaign donor. The impeachment charges include bribery, misuse of public resources, retaliation against former employees and more.
Each side had one hour to present their closing arguments. Tony Buzbee and Dan Cogdell, two of Paxton’s defense lawyers, framed the trial as “a political witch hunt.”
“This man did his job, and he should still be doing his job,” Buzbee said.
Buzbee said the seven former deputies who reported Paxton to federal authorities in 2020 were “disgruntled” and “combative,” arguing they had no evidence to support their allegations.
During testimony, the whistleblowers agreed they did not take “documentary evidence” to the FBI but said their collective experiences served as evidence. Some testified they expected law enforcement to conduct a full investigation and collect physical evidence following their “initial report.”
Cogdell, who has represented Paxton in an ongoing securities fraud case in 2015, questioned why the Texas House General Investigating Committee did not speak to him about the attorney general. The committee opened an investigation into Paxton’s alleged misconduct in March.
“I've been representing Ken Paxton for eight years,” Cogdell said. “The fact that they wouldn't literally pick up the phone and call me [is] a clue that they were more invested in the conclusion that they wanted than they were invested into the investigation.”
Cogdell argued the House prosecutors did not effectively prove Paxton committed the offenses contained in the articles of impeachment.
“Some of the greatest lawyers in Texas literally could not put together a cogent case that could convince anyone that these things occurred beyond a reasonable doubt,” Cogdell said.
During the House’s closing statement, Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, the chair of the investigating committee, asserted the prosecution had a strong case.
“The defense here isn’t that he didn’t do it,” Murr said. “It’s that it doesn’t matter because he won the election.”
Paxton’s goal in the attorney general’s office was “to serve himself, not the people of Texas,” Murr told the jury.
“If you vote to condone that, then high office will simply be the most profitable choice for any self-serving crook, and it won't even have to be hidden,” he said.
Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, emphasized the importance of the senators’ vote in an emotional statement. Leach, who represents Paxton’s home district of Collin County, voted in favor of impeachment in May and is a member of the House board of managers.
“This will, if you're like me, be the hardest vote, the most difficult vote, the heaviest vote that you will ever cast in your time in the Legislature,” Leach said.
Leach said he had “done life” with Paxton but became “increasingly concerned and alarmed” about his alleged misconduct in recent years.
Paxton never answered lawmakers’ questions “in public or private,” Leach said: “[That] is largely one of the reasons that we're here today, because the people of Texas deserve answers, and the Legislature, the Senate and the House, expected to get those answers.”
The senators can deliberate for as much or little time as they need, Patrick said. They must provide at least 30-minutes notice before returning to the floor to vote on the articles of impeachment.
If they are not ready to vote Sept. 15, they must continue deliberations until at least 8 p.m. and return the following morning, Patrick told the senators. In that case, they would be sequestered in Austin after leaving the Capitol, under strict orders not to speak to anyone or consume any news.
“You shall have no communications with anyone,” Patrick said. “You can tell your kids ‘good night,’ or your wife or your husband. But you shall not read any news, look at any news, go online, open up your computers.”
Voting will be done in public, and the jurors will vote on each article of impeachment individually.
“Your decision must be based only—and only—on the facts and evidence presented here in this chamber,” Patrick emphasized. “You are the sole judges of the credibility of the witnesses.”
The rules state Angela Paxton is still a part of the total juror count, meaning a two-thirds majority, or 21 senators, is needed to convict Paxton on any article of impeachment. If he is convicted, he will be immediately removed from office, and senators would subsequently vote whether he would be barred from holding future elected positions.