Saturday, September 16, 2023
After a historic 10-day trial, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted Saturday by the state Senate on 16 charges of bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of office. He was immediately reinstated, ending a suspension that began in May with his impeachment by the state House. The verdict could propel the conservative Republican's political future at home and potentially on the national stage. Senators had deliberated in private for more than eight hours before returning to the chamber to individually declare their decision in public on a form and then by voice. The process took about an hour and a half, the "yay" and "nay" votes being sounded over and over. Many resulted in the same 14-16 margin, with only two Republicans siding with the dozen Democrats; 21 votes were required for conviction. Paxton, 60, was not present for any of it.
His impeachment centered on his effort to obtain $3.3 million in state funding to settle a lawsuit by senior aides. Some of those aides had become whistleblowers, so distressed by his interactions with wealthy Austin developer Nate Paul that they reported their boss to the FBI. Several testified for the prosecution, and they were in the gallery on Saturday to hear the senators' verdict.
Some political observers said the acquittal showed that Texas Republicans have unified after the divisiveness that resulted in Paxton's impeachment.
"It's a demonstration of unity that we haven't seen in a while," said Jim Henson, who directs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. "You have an example of somebody who has successfully fought the system in the face of pretty strong evidence. It will be emboldening to people."
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