The Texas Senate voted Tuesday to move ahead with the historic impeachment trial of Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, denying all of Paxton’s motions to dismiss the charges.
After the staggering 20 charges were read to him in the Senate Chamber, Paxton’s lawyer, Tony Buzbee, simply replied “not guilty” to each one. In response to an objection from House lawyer Rusty Hardin, Senate Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who is acting as a judge during the trial, allowed the plea to remain.
The charges against Paxton stem from eight of his top staffers reporting him to the FBI in 2020, most likely due to his using his office to benefit Austin real estate developer and wealthy donor Nate Paul. Three other charges pertain to Paxton’s ongoing 2015 felony securities fraud case, while the fourth is related to his ethics filings. Paxton has called the allegations “hearsay and gossip”, and expects an acquittal.
Before the Senate began proceedings, Patrick ruled that Paxton would not be compelled to testify.
The Senate rules stipulate that a supermajority of 21 votes is needed to convict Paxton, meaning at least nine Republicans must vote to convict alongside the 12 Democrats. Seven Republican senators voted against the dismissal of the charges, while five opted to keep some but not all of the charges.
The trial will run from 9 a.m. to at least 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with 20-minute breaks every 90 minutes. This week the trial will not carry on to Saturday, however, it is possible that it will next week.
Sen. Angela Paxton, the attorney general’s wife, will not be able to vote during the trial.
Paxton said he is “confident” the Senate will dismiss the charges against him. He is the first sitting Texas attorney general to be impeached since 1859 when Ebenezer Allen was removed from office in a case of bribery.
This is not the first time Paxton has faced legal troubles. In August 2015, he was indicted on felony securities fraud charges, which he has denied and claims are politically motivated.
The Senate impeachment trial of Paxton is highly unprecedented, and it will be watched closely by the entire state.