The Trib ponders how Dan Patrick is holding up under the strain of having to preside over the Ken Paxton impeachment trial.
In the Texas Senate, what Dan Patrick wants — Dan Patrick typically gets.
Widely regarded as one of Texas’ most powerful lieutenant governors ever, Patrick has embraced his reputation as a hard-charging political strategist and kingmaker, known to run roughshod over the Legislature to get his way.
But as the Republican-dominated Senate prepares to take on the historic task of deciding whether to permanently remove fellow Republican and Attorney General Ken Paxton, Patrick is confronting an uncomfortable and unexpected test of his own — fraught with political, legal and ethical landmines.
In the lead up to Tuesday’s trial, Patrick has been under tremendous scrutiny and pressure as Paxton allies and opponents search for signs of which way he may be leaning. And whether he likes it or not, it is turning into a legacy-making moment in the latter years of his career.
“I will be honest: I was concerned that Patrick was gonna put his thumb on the scale,” said Steve Armbruster, the chairman of the Williamson County GOP who opposed his precinct chairs’ resolution condemning Paxton’s impeachment. “Anyone that pays any attention to Texas politics knows that there’s only one vote that matters in the Texas Senate, and that’s the lieutenant governor’s.”
Politically, there are no easy paths for Patrick. If he oversees Paxton’s removal, it will anger a faction of conservatives to which Patrick has long owed his political career. If Paxton’s acquitted, it would affirm skeptics’ suspicions of Patrick’s bias in favor of the attorney general all along. Those concerns metastasized with the revelation that Patrick accepted $3 million from a pro-Paxton group in late June.
An acquittal would also further inflame tensions between Patrick and Phelan’s House, where House Republicans put their political capital on the line when they overwhelmingly voted to impeach Paxton for abuses of office.
Those who know Patrick well say he is working hard to rise to the moment. Sherry Sylvester, a former top adviser to the lieutenant governor, said he has “worked harder to prepare for this than anything I have ever seen him do.”
“[His] goal is to preside over a fair and unbiased process that reflects the integrity of the Senate and is befitting this historic moment in Texas history,” Sylvester said in a statement. “The rule making process so far makes it clear that he and the Senate are approaching this with the utmost seriousness.”
It’s a long story and you can read the rest. Much of it involves the words and deeds of the extremely shitty people who prop up Ken Paxton, and there’s also a lot of people saying mostly nice things about how Dan Patrick is handling the trial. You be the judge of how much of that you can take. My main conclusion in reading this is that Republicans will be a whole lot madder at each other if Paxton is convicted. As if I needed another reason to root for that outcome.
Reform Austin finds a few wheels in motion.
Texas Senators held a discreet meeting in the state Capitol exactly one week before the high-stakes impeachment trial of Ken Paxton. Their closed-door session was exclusively dedicated to deliberating the trial’s rules and procedures, with no voting taking place.
With the trial set to commence on September 5th, the legislators gathered behind closed doors. However, there was a conspicuous absence of any voting activity during the session as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s spokesman Steven Aranyi confirmed to The Dallas Morning News.
Among the items left unaddressed was Paxton’s request for the dismissal of the articles of impeachment lodged against him. According to two senators who spoke with The Dallas Morning News, the focus of their meeting was solely on reviewing the rules and procedures for the upcoming trial.
Senator Royce West, representing Dallas, succinctly summarized their session, stating, “We just discussed the rules and regulations for next week.” He emphasized that no votes were taken, concluding, “We’re done for the week.”
Senator John Whitmire from Houston concurred, affirming, “Nothing to decide today.”
The shroud of secrecy enveloping the proceedings could be thanks to a gag order in place for all parties involved in the impeachment proceedings.
On Tuesday evening, a significant development emerged as an order signed by Lt. Gov. Patrick was posted on the impeachment’s website. This order mandated the appearance of all witnesses on the trial’s opening day. The witness list was extensive, comprising more than 100 individuals, including a woman allegedly involved in an affair with Paxton and the whistleblowers who have accused him of corruption.
Paxton’s lawyers have repeatedly said he will not testify, asserting his right against self-incrimination.
Paxton, prosecutors argue, “wants to have it both ways” by refusing to testify without using his Fifth Amendment privilege.
“So he can avoid … negative publicity and disdain — as Texas’ top law enforcement officer — from refusing to publicly answer questions before the Senate in an effort to cling to the office he abused,” the lawyers wrote.
To support their case, House lawyers cite a trial in Jefferson County, where in 1962 the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a sheriff facing removal could be called as a witness.
Karen Burgess, an Austin lawyer who practices civil law, said that in her experience a jury or judge “will hold them to the adverse inference and find the answer would have been what the questioner wanted.”
Thus far, the argument that the proceeding is criminal has not won over Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the trial’s presiding officer. In a recent interview with Fox 26 in Houston, Patrick, who will decide the motion on whether Paxton must take the witness stand, said that the proceeding is neither criminal nor civil but “political.”
Given that position, “it’s kind of like no holds barred then,” said Bob Perkins, a retired Travis County criminal court judge. On ordering Paxton to testify, Perkins said, “it would seem to be the House managers can do anything that they want.”
Paxton likewise has good reason not to testify. After the impeachment trial, he will appear in a Houston courtroom to resolve a now 8-year-old felony securities fraud case. A trial is set tentatively for February, and anything Paxton says in the impeachment trial could jeopardize his defense in his criminal trial.
Also looming over Paxton is an ongoing federal investigation into his relationship with Paul. The Statesman recently reported that prosecutors seated a grand jury in San Antonio to review evidence and witness testimony.
Rick Flores, an Austin defense lawyer, said it makes sense for House prosecutors to want to question Paxton, even if he’s unlikely to answer.
“I’d think they’d want to call him to the witness stand and make him say the words that he’s invoking the Fifth Amendment,” Flores said. “The optics of him saying that would be bad for him.”
Yeah, a bunch of GIFs of Paxton saying he doesn’t want to incriminate himself would be golden. I miss Molly Ivins as much as the next person, and boy do I feel like she’d be having an absolute field day with all this. It’s truly unfair that Ken Paxton could get impeached and neither she nor Harold Cook will be around to see it happen and provide the color commentary for it. We must muddle on somehow.