The Texas Senate on Tuesday rejected all of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to dismiss the articles of impeachment against him, moving forward with the first removal proceeding against a statewide elected official in more than a century.
The rapid-fire series of votes on 16 pretrial motions made clear that senators want to at least hear the evidence against Paxton before deciding his fate. And the vote counts provided an early gauge of how willing GOP senators may be to remove a fellow Republican from statewide office.
While the House vote to impeach Paxton was overwhelming and bipartisan, the Senate offers a different political landscape. Its Republican members are more in line with Paxton’s brand of conservatism, and he has more personal connections in the chamber where he once served and his wife remains a member.
The pretrial motions required a majority vote, but the most support a motion to dismiss received was 10 out of 30 senators — all Republicans — and that motion sought to throw out a single article.
Six Republican senators supported every motion in a nod of support for Paxton: Paul Bettencourt of Houston, Donna Campbell of New Braunfels, Brandon Creighton of Conroe, Bob Hall of Edgewood, Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham and Tan Parker of Flower Mound.
Five Republicans — Brian Birdwell of Granbury, Bryan Hughes of Mineola, Charles Perry of Lubbock, Charles Schwertner of Georgetown and Kevin Sparks of Midland — voted in favor of some motions to dismiss.
The remaining seven Republicans voted with all 12 Democrats against each motion. Those senators were Pete Flores of Pleasanton, Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills, Joan Huffman of Houston, Mayes Middleton of Galveston, Robert Nichols of Jacksonville and Drew Springer of Muenster.
Setting the tone, the Senate denied Paxton’s first two motions by votes of 24-6 and 22-8.
The first motion asked the Senate to throw out all of the articles of impeachment for lack of evidence. Twelve Republicans joined all Senate Democrats in the vote to essentially move forward with a trial.
The second motion asked senators to exclude evidence from before Paxton’s current term. The second motion asked senators to exclude evidence from before January, when Paxton’s current four-year term began. That motion struck at the heart of one of Paxton’s main arguments — that he cannot be impeached for any actions allegedly taken before he was reelected last year. Paxton’s defenders have repeatedly cited the so-called forgiveness doctrine to criticize the House impeachment as illegal.
See here and here for the background. Mostly, this means we’re gonna have ourselves a trial, so settle in and get comfy. And get ready to find more things to be shocked about, I’m just sure there will be some surprises in the testimony.
Speaking of testimony, the one person who (probably) won’t be testifying is Ken Paxton himself.
After Senators resoundingly rejected all of Attorney General Ken Paxton motions to dismiss articles of impeachment against him Tuesday morning, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick handed Paxton a small victory by ruling that he cannot be forced to testify as a witness in his trial before the Texas Senate.
The Senate-approved rules for the trial gave Patrick, who is acting as the presiding officer, or judge, the power to issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses.
Paxton had stated that he would not testify in the trial, and his lead lawyer, Tony Buzbee said in a statement in early July that Paxton “will not dignify the illegal House action by testifying.”
His lawyers followed by filing a pretrial motion asking the Senate to excuse Paxton from testifying, arguing that the trial is a criminal proceeding, giving Paxton the same legal protections as a criminal defendant who would not be forced to testify.
House managers had opposed that motion, saying the trial rules provided no exception for Paxton. They also argued that Paxton must assert his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to incriminate himself in testimony from the witness stand.
Patrick said Tuesday that the rules adopted by the Senate apply many of the same rules reserved for criminal cases, including the requirement that Paxton plead guilty or not guilty, and House impeachment managers are required to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard also used in criminal trials.
“The House managers have repeatedly compared actions of the House of Representatives to a grand jury as they prefer the articles of impeachment,” Patrick said as he granted the motion. “Grand juries are utilized only in criminal cases.”
Therefore, Paxton cannot be compelled to testify as a defendant in at his impeachment trial, Patrick concluded.
That’s fine. I’m sure there will be plenty said about him, whether he speaks up on his own behalf (someplace other than on Twitter or at a fundraiser) or not. Just remember, he could have done so but he chose not to. Much more to come, this will take several weeks. Reform Austin and the Chron have more.