The lead attorney for suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton said his client will not testify in his upcoming impeachment trial in the Texas Senate.
Paxton’s defense lawyer, Tony Buzbee, made the announcement in a late Monday night statement on the eve of the July Fourth holiday. The Senate could still try to force Paxton to testify, but the statement makes clear Paxton would fight such efforts.
“We will not bow to their evil, illegal, and unprecedented weaponization of state power in the Senate chamber,” Buzbee said of the House. A spokesperson for the chamber did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the defense team’s statement.
After the House impeached him, Paxton said he was looking forward to a fair trial in the Senate. While Buzbee’s statement exclusively criticizes the House, it marks the first time Paxton has demonstrated any kind of resistance to the Senate’s handling of his impeachment.
Whether Paxton would testify in the trial has long been a source of speculation given his ongoing legal battles — and the potential he could provide information to the Senate that complicates those cases. He has been indicted on securities fraud charges since 2015, and the FBI began investigating the claims by whistleblowers in his office after they came forward in 2020.
In early June, about two weeks after Paxton’s impeachment, Paul was indicted on charges he made false statements to financial institutions. Paul and Paxton lawyers have said the case has nothing to do with Paxton.
Buzbee’s latest statement returns to a familiar argument from Paxton’s team that focuses on the House impeachment process rather than specific allegations.
“The House has ignored precedent, denied him an opportunity to prepare his defense, and now wants to ambush him on the floor of the Senate,” Buzbee said. “They had the opportunity to have Attorney General Paxton testify during their sham investigation but refused to do so.”
In criticizing the impeachment as “illegal,” Buzbee appears to be calling back to Paxton’s argument that the impeachment is invalid because a state law says a state officer cannot be removed from office over something they did before their “election to office.” Paxton has argued that applies to anything he did before he was reelected last year; the House has argued the so-called “forgiveness doctrine” does not apply to impeachment at all.
It’s hard for me to separate my loathing for Ken Paxton from the rest of this case, to try to approach what is being said and done analytically. It’s important to point out that this is not a criminal trial. Ken Paxton’s liberty is not at risk here – the worst that can happen is he loses his job. Which, given the wingnut welfare gravy train that would await him if he gets convicted, isn’t that much of a loss. As such, I feel comfortable assailing Tony Buzbee for his inflammatory rhetoric here. Defense attorneys deserve a lot of latitude, but again this isn’t a criminal trial. It’s a political process, and as such political statements are in bounds, but maybe try not to burn it all down in the name of firing up the next batch of primary opponents?
It is notable, and should continue to be in focus, that Paxton’s defenders, both paid and volunteer, rarely have anything to say about the substance of the charges against him. No “all his actions with Nate Paul were completely above board”, no “the whistleblower allegations are totally false”, no “he’s a paragon of ethical behavior”. You fight on the terrain that’s most hospitable to you, I get that, but it’s still worth noting. I believe it also serves my goal of maximizing Republican division, so in that sense I thank them for it. It’s still just so exhausting to experience.