Ken Paxton’s billionaire sugar daddies sure are getting their money’s worth from his attorneys.
Attorneys for suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a flurry of motions over the weekend that seek to dismiss additional articles of impeachment, arguing that the allegations are baseless or fall under the legitimate duties of the attorney general’s office.
In the documents, filed before Saturday’s deadline for pretrial motions and made public Monday, Paxton’s attorneys routinely accused House impeachment managers of using “any means necessary” to “overturn the will of voters” who elected Paxton last year.
Paxton’s team also downplayed the severity of the accusations against him — including those surrounding his firing of whistleblowers from his office who reported him to law enforcement for alleged bribery — and argued that many of the claims are without merit or do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.
In addition to challenging individual articles, Paxton’s lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing all 20 articles of impeachment that were approved 121-23 by the House in May, arguing that the accusations are unsupported by evidence.
Last week, Paxton’s team filed two motions to dismiss 19 of the 20 articles of impeachment, arguing that all but one — Article 8 — ran afoul of the “prior-term doctrine,” which they said bars officials from being impeached for conduct that predates their most recent election. They argued that almost all of the allegations outlined by House investigators were known to voters when they reelected him to his third six-year term in 2022.
But while those filings attacked the impeachment articles on procedural grounds, the new flurry of motions individually addressed the merits of the allegations against Paxton. The lawyers also sought to dismiss Article 8, which deals with Paxton’s request that the Legislature finance his $3.3 million lawsuit settlement with the whistleblowers — a request that prompted the initial House investigation into him earlier this year.
In its filing, Paxton’s team framed the lawsuit settlement as a “money-saving agreement” of “ordinary employment litigation.” It also accused the House of having “done violence to our democracy” by attempting to impeach Paxton over what it described as a “routine” function of his job.
The new filings also hint at Paxton’s potential defense strategy for allegations involving Nate Paul, a political donor and Austin real estate investor who was arrested in June on federal felony charges of lying to financial institutions to secure business loans. House investigators accused Paxton of misusing his office to help Paul’s business and to interfere with criminal investigations into Paul’s activities. In return, investigators alleged, Paul paid to remodel Paxton’s Austin home and hired a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an extramarital affair.
In the filing, Paxton’s team downplayed the relationship with Paul and argued that there was no evidence that Paxton formed “an illegal agreement” to help Paul in exchange for a benefit — a “quid pro quo” required under state bribery laws.
“As they stand, the Articles allege nothing more than that the Attorney General had a personal relationship with a constituent and that the constituent found something the Attorney General did to be agreeable in some way,” Paxton’s attorneys wrote. “If that is enough to amount to a bribe, scarcely any elected official is innocent of the House’s notion of bribery.“
See here for the background. It’s important to remember, this is what good defense attorneys do. The best case is one that gets tossed. It doesn’t cost them anything to swing for the fences – who knows, they may connect. You don’t make the big ask, you don’t get it. And we know that they are strongly incentivized to go for a clean sweep, as it will greatly affect how Paxton’s defense of the state securities fraud charges will go. As “not Buzbee” defense attorney Dan Cogdell noted last week, even one impeachment conviction is a “kill shot” to Paxton’s political career. It’s not just that they may as well go for broke. They have no choice.
Which makes this stuff all the more intriguing.
Suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton and his legal team appear to be testing the limits of a gag order from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that seeks to limit commentary on Paxton’s September impeachment trial before the Texas Senate.
Patrick, the presiding judge in the trial, issued the sweeping gag order July 17, banning all involved parties from making comments that could prejudice the trial or impair the impeachment court’s ability to be “fair and impartial.” The gag order, however, permits the parties to make statements “reciting, without comment, information contained in public records.”
Paxton’s team has leaned on that provision in recent days to issue news releases drawing attention to its latest court filings once they are publicly available on a Senate website. And on Thursday, Paxton’s lead lawyer, Tony Buzbee, went on a Dallas radio show and mostly read from the filings verbatim, including passages that disparaged the case against Paxton and expressed doubts on the quality of evidence against him.
In another instance, although the gag order prohibits “prejudicial and inflammatory statements,” a Paxton campaign fundraising appeal rallied supporters against what the email called an “illegal” impeachment. Although Buzbee defended the fundraising appeal as complying with the gag order, Paxton later removed the language from a donation link on his campaign website, according to Dallas TV station WFAA.
Paxton’s side insists it is following the gag order.
“The attorney general would not violate or go contrary to the orders of the court, and we don’t believe that he’s done so,” Buzbee told the Dallas radio host, Mark Davis.
The House impeachment managers have been quieter since the gag order was issued. But in a filing last month, they expressed some irritation with Paxton’s team and the gag order, alleging that a Paxton motion “was shared with the press even though the Senate has not posted it to the website.”
“The House Managers trust that the Senate will deal with any departure from its mandates as the Senate deems fit,” the filing said.
As they face questions about their compliance with the gag order, Paxton’s lawyers have also gone on offense over it. In one recent filing, they accused impeachment managers of using their filings to “circumvent” the gag order “by filing a ‘notice’ to make a public comment.” The impeachment managers had filed several such notices to briefly indicate their opposition to various pretrial motions and promise a more thorough response by an Aug. 15 deadline.
At the same time, Paxton’s lawyers have been using their filings to offer diatribes against the other side. One filing said the House lawyers’ promises of damning evidence — made before the gag order was issued — were “bluster and bluff” and were “aggressive, reckless, misleading.” Buzbee quoted that filing on the air Thursday.
Patrick’s office has not commented on possible conflicts with the gag order.
Some of Paxton’s supporters are plainly unhappy with the gag order. Houston conservative activist Steve Hotze has sued the Senate in state and federal court over the gag order, calling it unconstitutional.
“The Gag Order in the Senate rules infringes on the First Amendment right of Plaintiffs to hear the impressions, positions, and views of Texas senators and state representatives in connection with the impeachment trial,” the federal lawsuit said. The gag order also “infringes on the First Amendment right of Plaintiffs to communicate with Texas senators and state representatives in connection with the impeachment trial.”
See here and here for more on the gag order and Team Paxton’s response to it, and here for more on the Hotze lawsuit. I can’t tell if that’s a stunt that is entirely focused on putting pressure on Dan Patrick and any lily-livered Republican Senators, one that they expect will get tossed the minute it gets read by a judge, or if it’s for real. There is an argument to be made that Dan Patrick as Lite Guv did not have the authority to issue a gag order. Hotze’s a troll who should never be taken seriously, but even a weakling can hit a hanging curve. We’ll see if and when there’s a hearing for this lawsuit.
As for Paxton, it’s usually a bad idea to defy the judge in your trial, but so far it hasn’t cost him anything. There are three possible reasons for Team Paxton’s super aggressive behavior. One is they legitimately believe they are in compliance with the letter, if not the spirit, of the gag order. Again, they’re going for the gusto. This is in harmony with that strategy. Two, they’re idiots who are going to find out real quick. I don’t think that’s likely but it is a possibility so I list it here. And three, they know (or really believe) that Dan Patrick is (begrudgingly or not) on their side, because among many other things he doesn’t want to piss off the frothing deplorables who make up his base as well as Paxton’s. I hate to give Dan Patrick any credit, but I don’t think this is all that likely either. I’m not dismissing it by any means, but this is a huge deal. For all his ego and blinders, I think there’s a part of Dan Patrick that wants to be seen as doing this by the book. Not everyone gets to take part in a once-in-a-century event. He’s going to be remembered for this. I think he cares about that, even in spite of himself.
But we’ll see. And as noted in the first story, the Senate can vote to dismiss any or all of the charges against Paxton. The House impeachment managers have until August 15 to file their response to these latest motions. We ought to know quickly if this will all be resolved in short order or not. Reform Austin has more.