Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Acquitted of Impeachment Charges and Returns to Office

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Acquitted of Impeachment Charges and Returns to Office
AUSTIN, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 16: Former Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton's defense team waits for the impeachment trial at the Texas State Capitol on September 16, 2023 in Austin, Texas. The trial comes to a close today after a 10-day hearing over allegations that Paxton abused public office with false statements, bribery, and abusing public trust. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas — After being acquitted of impeachment charges, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is back to work and back to his usual duties. His agenda includes taking legal action against the Biden administration, garnering support from former President Donald Trump, and an upcoming interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

On Sunday, Paxton marked his return to office after being cleared of accusations of corruption and bribery in the Texas Senate. Despite facing years of criminal charges and alleged scandals, Paxton remains a resilient political figure in the United States.

However, his acquittal has stirred controversy within the GOP, sparking divisions related to his impeachment proceedings.

The political fallout within the Texas Capitol is just beginning, and it could potentially spill over into the 2024 elections. Conservative allies of Paxton, backed by Trump, have indicated that they will target Republican legislators who led the investigation against him.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Acquitted of Impeachment Charges and Returns to Office
AUSTIN, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 16: Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton’s defense team speaks during a press conference at the Texas State Capitol on September 16, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted today of all impeachment articles, concluding a 10-day hearing over allegations that Paxton abused public office with false statements, bribery and abusing public trust. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Furthermore, there is now discussion of revisiting the very process of impeachment in Texas. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presided over Paxton’s trial, delivered a fiery speech questioning how the case reached this point and has called for new safeguards.

On the other side of the aisle are Republicans in the Texas House, where Paxton was overwhelmingly impeached and suspended from office in May. They expressed dissatisfaction with Saturday’s verdict and criticized the lieutenant governor.

Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan commented, “The inescapable conclusion is that today’s outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice.”

During the trial, Paxton, aged 60, was largely absent and was not present in the Senate for his acquittal on 16 articles of impeachment. He released a statement condemning his impeachment as the work of a “kangaroo court” and promoted an upcoming interview with Tucker Carlson.

Paxton’s trial featured both sober testimony and occasional spectacle. His former advisers accused him of abusing his office, alleging that he pressured them to assist a political donor under FBI investigation. Testimony also included disputes over home renovations, the use of burner phones, and the impact of an alleged extramarital affair on his office.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Acquitted of Impeachment Charges and Returns to Office
AUSTIN, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 16: Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton’s defense team speak during a press conference at the Texas State Capitol on September 16, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted today of all impeachment articles, concluding a 10-day hearing over allegations that Paxton abused public office with false statements, bribery and abusing public trust. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Paxton consistently denied wrongdoing, with his attorneys arguing that there was either no evidence or insufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. They portrayed Paxton as a victim of a plot orchestrated by Republican rivals and raised political conspiracies involving George P. Bush, who unsuccessfully challenged Paxton in the previous year’s GOP primary. Paxton received Trump’s endorsement in that race, which Trump reaffirmed during the trial, celebrating the verdict on his social media platform, Truth Social.

Despite Paxton’s overwhelming impeachment in the Texas House, where Republicans hold a solid majority, he was equally convincingly acquitted by Senate Republicans, including his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton. Angela Paxton did not participate in the trial but attended its entirety, including a dramatic moment involving a woman called to testify about an affair with her husband.

Although the woman never testified, her relationship with Ken Paxton was central to the case, which accused him of taking potentially criminal actions to assist a local real estate developer, Nate Paul, who was under FBI investigation at the time.

Democratic state Sen. Nathan Johnson described nearly eight hours of deliberations among the 30 senators as a rigorous and seemingly sincere process, though it ultimately collapsed when it became clear there were not enough votes to convict, potentially due to political pressures.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Acquitted of Impeachment Charges and Returns to Office
AUSTIN, TEXAS – SEPTEMBER 16: Lae enforcement stand together in prayer during commencement of the former Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial at the Texas State Capitol on September 16, 2023 in Austin, Texas. The trial comes to a close today after a 10-day hearing over allegations that Paxton abused public office with false statements, bribery, and abusing public trust. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Paxton’s legal challenges are far from over. He still faces trial on felony securities fraud charges, remains under a separate FBI investigation, and may lose his ability to practice law in Texas due to his baseless attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

In 2020, eight of Paxton’s former deputies reported him to the FBI over his relationship with real estate developer Paul, triggering an ongoing federal investigation. In June, Paul was indicted on charges of making false statements to banks, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

Dan Cogdell, one of Paxton’s attorneys, expressed confidence that the securities fraud charges against the attorney general would be dismissed, stating, “If they don’t dismiss them, we’ll try them and beat them there just like we beat them here.”

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