Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Monday issued a wide-ranging gag order ahead of the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, saying “out-of-court statements” by both sides could jeopardize the trial in the Texas Senate.
The order, which went into immediate effect, cites what Patrick called “particularly egregious” statements that “pose a serious and imminent threat” to the impartiality of Paxton’s trial, which begins Sept. 5.
Violators can be found in contempt of court and punished with up to six months in a county jail and a fine of up to $500, the gag order said.
The order prohibits parties — including members of the Senate and House and their staffs, witnesses and attorneys — from making statements that they “reasonably should know” will have a “substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing the trial.”
That includes, among other statements, those “concerning the expected testimony” or “character, reputation or credibility” of witnesses, parties or attorneys involved in the trial, and “any opinion” as to whether the articles of impeachment should be dismissed or sustained, the gag order said.
The order also bars statements about the “identity or nature” of evidence that may be presented at the trial, statements about subpoenas issued in the matter, or statements about “any information” that could “create a substantial risk of prejudicing” the trial.
Patrick said the sweeping order was justified because, unlike in civil or criminal trials, the jury — 30 of the 31 senators — cannot be replaced if there is evidence that their impartiality is tainted. Senate trial rules barred one potential juror — Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney — from participating in deliberations or decisions in the impeachment trial, citing a conflict of interest.
The order cites comments made by attorneys for both Paxton and the House impeachment managers, including Paxton lead attorney Tony Buzbee’s claims that the House investigation was an “evil, illegal and unprecedented weaponization of state power,” and a claim by one of the House’s lead prosecutors, Rusty Hardin, that his team had uncovered allegations that “will blow your mind.”
Patrick, who is acting as judge in the impeachment trial, was required to issue a gag order under impeachment rules that were approved by the Texas Senate last month. Paxton, who was suspended from office upon a 121-23 impeachment vote by the House, would be permanently removed from office if two-thirds of senators agree.
On the one hand, that’s going to make this a whole lot less fun, since let’s face it the sniping was pure political joy. Who doesn’t want to see all these fancy lawyers tearing into each other? On the other hand, and I hate to say this, but that’s basically Dan Patrick’s point, and I can see where he’s coming from. This is a circus, gag order or no, but it’s supposed to ultimately deliver a verdict we’re meant to accept as legitimate. A little decorum will make that a tad bit easier to achieve. So we all get too cool our jets until September. Boring, but there you have it. The Statesman has more.
UPDATE: I’m sure this is nothing.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is presiding over the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, received $3 million in campaign support last month from a top group campaigning against Paxton’s impeachment.
In a campaign-finance report published Tuesday, Patrick — who is not up for reelection until 2026 — reported a $1 million contribution and a $2 million loan from Defend Texas Liberty PAC. The political action committee was by far his biggest benefactor on the report, which covered Patrick’s fundraising from June 19-30. It was the first opportunity state officials had to fundraise since the House impeached Paxton in late May.
Patrick’s Senate has scheduled a trial to begin Sept. 5 to determine whether to permanently remove Paxton from office. Patrick has been acting as presiding officer of the trial — effectively the judge — and the fundraising period partially overlapped with the Senate’s deliberations over the trial rules.
The PAC’s stance on Paxton’s impeachment is well-known. Shortly after the House impeached Paxton, Defend Texas Liberty PAC sent text messages to GOP voters asking them to call their state senators and tell them to “stop this madness and end this witch hunt.” It has also made clear it will politically target House Republicans who voted for impeachment.
“Defend Texas Liberty will ensure that every Republican voter in Texas knows just what a sham the Texas House has been this session and just how absurd this last minute Democrat led impeachment effort is,” the group said in a May 26 tweet.
Who among us could possibly think that Dan Patrick is anything but fair, impartial, and impervious to the whims of billionaires?