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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.
Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial: What to know
Paxton faces several allegations
Suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton is accused of bribery, disregarding his official duty, making false statements and abusing the public trust. Paxton allegedly misused the powers of the attorney general’s office to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor. Impeachment managers submitted nearly 4,000 pages of evidence ahead of Paxton’s trial in the Senate. Paxton pleaded not guilty.
Defense calls accusations political
Paxton’s lawyers vow to disprove the accusations and say they will present evidence showing they are based on assumptions, not facts. They and several other Paxton supporters portray the proceedings as a political witch hunt carried out by “Republicans in name only.”
Texas Senate acting as impeachment jury
Texas senators are considering 16 of 20 impeachment articles. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is acting as judge. Witnesses are testifying under oath, senator-jurors will deliberate privately and votes will be conducted without public debate. The attorney general’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, will sit as part of the court, but will not vote or deliberate.
The political donor at the center of the case
Impeachment prosecutors allege that Paxton directed his office to conduct sham investigations into the rivals of Nate Paul, a real estate investor and political donor who was under federal investigation. Paxton is accused of improperly providing his friend with sensitive information about the FBI investigation into his businesses and improperly involving the attorney general’s office in a lawsuit between Paul and an Austin nonprofit.
Affair could play key role in impeachment
Impeachment prosecutors argue that Ken Paxton went to great lengths to conceal an alleged extramarital affair from his wife and deeply religious voters who have supported him. Nate Paul allegedly hired Paxton’s girlfriend in exchange for the attorney general using his public office to help the real estate investor’s faltering businesses.
The trial features several high-profile Texans
Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial involves a massive cast of elected officials, high-profile lawyers, whistleblowers from within his office, an indicted real estate investor and the attorney general’s former personal assistant.
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.
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