Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will return to office after state senators found him not guilty of impeachment charges ranging from abuse of office to bribery.

After hearing eight days of testimony, the Texas Senate voted to acquit him of 16 articles of impeachment. Senators also dismissed four other articles related to Paxton’s ongoing securities fraud case, which is set to go to trial next year.

Paxton was not present for the verdict.

What you need to know

Paxton was immediately restored to office as the trial concluded. The third-term Republican has been suspended without pay since late May, when the Texas House overwhelmingly voted to impeach him.

“The attorney general is excited to get back to work, and that’s what he’s going to do,” defense lawyer Tony Buzbee said after the verdict.

In a statement, Paxton said, “The truth prevailed. ... Now that this shameful process is over, my work to defend our constitutional rights will resume.”

Echoing earlier comments from his lawyers, Paxton called the trial “a weaponization of the impeachment process.”

Thirty senators spent hours deliberating the allegations against Paxton after lawyers from each side presented their closing arguments Sept. 15. The attorney general’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, was not allowed to participate or vote on her husband’s fate due to a conflict of interest.

No article of impeachment received more than 14 votes to convict. A two-thirds majority, or 21 senators, was required to remove Paxton from office.

Two Republican senators—Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills and Robert Nichols of Jacksonville—joined 12 Democrats in favor of conviction on some of the charges.

Paxton was accused of abusing his office to benefit a donor, accepting bribes, retaliating against former employees and more.What they’re saying

After senators reached a verdict, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presided over the trial, criticized House lawmakers for the way they conducted their investigation into Paxton’s alleged misconduct and the speed at which they impeached him.

“The Speaker and his team rammed through the first impeachment of a statewide-elected official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent,” Patrick said.

The Texas Constitution should be amended to make the “flawed process” more stringent, Patrick argued.

Firing back in a statement, House Speaker Dade Phelan said Patrick was “confessing his bias” toward the House for “standing up against corruption.”

The outcome of the trial was “orchestrated from the start,” Phelan said.

Speaking to reporters outside the Senate chamber, Buzbee said lawyers “should not have had to prove [Paxton’s] innocence” and thanked his team for their hard work throughout the trial.

“This was a Herculean task, to put together a defense when we really didn't even know what we were defending,” Buzbee said.

Paxton’s defense had “no idea how the jury would vote,” Buzbee said, but focused on presenting a strong case.

Dan Cogdell, another one of Paxton’s attorneys, said he hoped Paxton’s pending state securities fraud case would be dismissed.

But if it isn't, “we’ll try him and beat them there, just like we beat them here,” Cogdell said. “That’s been a BS case since day one.”
Defense attorney Dan Cogdell holds a cigar in his hands as he speaks to reporters following Attorney General Ken Paxton's acquittal of the impeachment charges Sept. 16 at the Texas Capitol. (Hannah Norton/Community Impact)
Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, defended the House’s investigation and prosecution of Paxton. Murr led the impeachment team on behalf of the House.

“Regardless of the results, I am proud to have defended the interests of our fellow Texans, who have stood up for integrity and propriety in public service,” Murr said. “While I disagreed with the decision of [senators] to excuse Mr. Paxton’s abuse of office, I know that we presented a factual, credible case that honored the standard to which all elected officials should be held.”

The backstory

The House prosecutors called 15 witnesses to the stand. During seven days of testimony, Paxton’s former deputies accused him of misusing office resources to help his friend and donor, Nate Paul; accepting bribes; lying on official records; and unfairly terminating employees who reported their concerns about his alleged misconduct to the FBI in 2020.

One whistleblower, David Maxwell, said he was fired two days after the report. Maxwell is a former Texas Ranger and served as director of law enforcement for the attorney general’s office.

“At the time, I was 71 years old and had risen to the top level of law enforcement,” Maxwell said. “When he fired me and then berated me in the news, he ended my career.”

Ryan Vassar, the former deputy attorney general for legal counsel, teared up on the witness stand Sept. 7 when asked about his loyalty to his former boss, who previously framed the seven whistleblowers as “rogue employees.”

“It was hurtful,” Vassar said. “The statement of being rogue is contrary to the years that I dedicated my life to the state.”

Maxwell and Vassar are among four former employees who sued Paxton for retaliation. The attorney general's office asked the Texas Legislature to fund with taxpayer dollars a $3.3 million settlement from the lawsuit, which House lawmakers said spurred their investigation into Paxton. The settlement has not yet been paid for.

Paxton’s defense team called four of their own witnesses Sept. 14, including Henry De La Garza, the human resources chief for the attorney general’s office.

De La Garza testified he agreed with the firing of four whistleblowers, whom he said committed “pretty egregious violations” of the office’s policy and proved they could not work with agency leaders.
House impeachment manager Rep. Andrew Murr (left) discusses the verdict in Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial Sept. 16 at the Texas Capitol. "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 [staff]," Murr said. (Hannah Norton/Community Impact)