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The Texas Senate agreed Monday to start its trial of impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton no later than Aug. 28, shortly after the House named 12 members to prosecute the case.
The flurry of activity came on the last day of the regular legislative session and two days after the House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton, alleging a yearslong pattern of misconduct and wrongdoing. Paxton has blasted the impeachment as a “politically motivated sham” and expressed hope the Senate will swiftly clear his name.
On Monday evening, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution that laid out an initial timeline for the next steps. The Senate appointed a seven-member committee that will prepare recommendations on the rules of procedure for the trial and then present them to the full Senate on June 20. And then Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick can pick a date “not later than” Aug. 28 on which the chamber will convene as a court of impeachment.
A two-thirds vote is required in the Senate to remove Paxton from office.
Earlier Monday, the House announced a Republican-majority board of managers to handle the prosecution, made up of seven Republicans and five Democrats. The group immediately left the House chamber to deliver the 20 articles of impeachment to the Senate.
“We will manage this process with the weight and reference that it deserves and requires,” state Rep. Andrew Murr, a Junction Republican and chair of the board of impeachment managers, said Monday at a news conference. “This is about facts and the evidence. It is not about politics.”
Joining Murr in leading the board of managers is Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston, the vice chair. Murr and Johnson are also the chair and vice chair of the House General Investigating Committee, which investigated Paxton and recommended his impeachment.
The other 10 managers are Reps. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth; Joe Moody, D-El Paso; Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Jeff Leach, R-Plano; Oscar Longoria, D-Mission; Morgan Meyer, R-University Park; Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park; Cody Vasut, R-Angleton; David Spiller, R-Jacksboro; and Erin Gámez, D-Brownsville.
As for the Senate panel that will make recommendations on rules of procedure, it will be chaired by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury. Its vice chair is Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. The other five members are Sens. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe; Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton; Joan Huffman, R-Houston; Phil King, R-Weatherford; and Royce West, D-Dallas.
During his news conference, Murr said trial will feature witnesses testifying under oath who will be subject to questioning from the House managers and Paxton’s defense team.
“We understand it is a very deliberative process and will be handled in a thoughtful way to ensure that all parties are prepared for trial,” Murr said.
The managers were named after the House adopted a resolution creating the board by a vote of 136-4.
In introducing the resolution, Murr said it was “similar” to the one used in 1975 after the impeachment of a state district judge, O.P. Carrillo. The resolution, Murr said, “authorizes the employment of a board of managers so they can proceed with the presentation of the trial in the Senate.”
The vote to impeach Paxton on Saturday was overwhelming and bipartisan, with 121 of 149 members supporting impeachment. Almost as many Republicans as Democrats voted to impeach Paxton.
House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, was among those who voted to impeach Paxton. He briefly addressed the impeachment earlier Monday, saying from the dais that the impeachment was “necessary” and “just.”
On Sunday, The Dallas Morning News reported that the Office of the Attorney General had delivered documents to senators’ offices that outlined Paxton’s defense. That packet included a letter signed by Brent Webster, the first assistant attorney general who has taken over Paxton’s duties while he is suspended from office.
Johnson likened the delivery of that packet to attempting to interfere with a trial.
“We expect that this committee has been fully engaged in the process with the highest level of integrity that the individuals on the other side would realize dropping a binder on your potential jurors could be considered a tampering or attempting to interfere with a lawful process,” Johnson said, adding that she appreciated statements from Patrick and several senators saying they understood their duties in this process and honoring their sworn oaths.
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