The Texas Senate will meet on Tuesday as a Supreme Court Justice to consider the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Republican agitator accused by his own party of taking bribes and abusing office.
Paxton, 60, has spent the past decade as the right’s leading legal attack dog and has fought many of President Donald Trump’s fights from Austin. Lawsuits to overturn the Affordable Care Act, legal protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children — commonly known as “Dreamers” — and the results of the 2020 election made him a popular right-wing force even after he was charged with securities fraud. But his political support broke this year when the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives voted 121 to 23 to impeach him on charges of abuse of office and bribery.
Paxton, only the third official in Texas history to be impeached, has denied wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charges in a trial that promises to be a political spectacle as it threatens to tear his party in half.
“It is not a criminal trial. It is not a civil process. It’s a political process,” Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said in an interview this summer.
Patrick, a powerful Republican president of the Senate, will preside over the Supreme Court as a judge. Thirty-one Texas senators — the majority of whom are Republican — will serve as the jury, considering opening and closing statements, witness statements, cross-examination and twenty articles of impeachment.
Here’s what to expect:
How did we get here?
Paxton has been facing allegations of misconduct and legal trouble for years. He was indicted for securities fraud in 2015, and his own staff reported him to the FBI in 2020 for suspected corruption over his dealings with Nate Paul, a donor and real estate investor. After whistleblowers filed a lawsuit and Paxton reached a $3.3 million settlement, members of the House secretly began investigating the whistleblowers’ claims before impeaching Paxton on May 27 over 20 articles of impeachment.
According to the articles, Paxton used his power and office to help Paul solve legal problems. They also accuse him of taking bribes in the form of home renovations and a job for a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair. The articles state that when faced with allegations of wrongdoing, Paxton retaliated against whistleblowers in his office and spent government money trying to cover up his wrongdoing with a sham investigation into their claims.
What’s happening on Tuesday?
The Senate is expected to meet at 9 a.m. as a Supreme Court Justice. Under the rules of the process, the Senate will first consider pretrial requests submitted by lawyers for both sides. Paxton’s defense is led by Tony Buzbee, who has filed numerous motions with his team, including some to dismiss the articles of impeachment, compel the production of evidence by House impeachment managers, and prevent Paxton from being forced to take a stand.
The House of Representatives impeachment managers are represented by longtime attorneys Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin, who also called for rule changes in a motion.
Senators will vote on motions to reject the articles of impeachment, while Patrick will rule on other motions. Paxton’s wife, Senator Angela Paxton, is not allowed to vote at the trial, but must be present as a juror. She announced her re-election campaign on Saturday.
Under the rules, the House managers or their attorneys can then make an opening statement before presenting their evidence and calling witnesses.
Who will testify?
According to the witness lists the attorneys were required to file with the court last month, obtained by The Dallas Morning News, there are more than 100 potential witnesses. Among them is Paxton himself; Paul; current and former employees of the Attorney General’s Office; Paxton’s supposed companion, Laura Olson; the main challenger to the Attorney General in 2022, George P. Bush; and even famed Texas political strategist Karl Rove.
After all potential witnesses were ordered to appear outside the Senate chamber at 11 a.m. Tuesday — setting the stage for a remarkable political spectacle — Patrick amended his order to allow some witnesses to appear later in the trial.
At the heart of the impeachment managers’ case is the testimony and documents prepared by members of Paxton’s senior staff, who will likely testify to how they became increasingly alarmed by Paxton’s dealings with Paul in 2020. From their interviews and contemporaneous documents show how she tried to dissuade the Attorney General from helping Paul investigate his enemies.
Contemporary memos of conversations and meetings provide a remarkable insight into the events that eventually led to their going to law enforcement.
“I do not trust NP,” Deputy Attorney General Mark Penley wrote in a handwritten note documenting a meeting with Paul. “THIS IS ALL VERY SUSPICIOUS.”
Paxton’s lawyers have said he will not testify and have filed a motion to prevent him from being forced to. House impeachment managers have argued that while the attorney general can exercise his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself, he must do so from the point of view.
What does Paxton say about this?
Paxton’s lawyers have argued in the filing that there is no evidence of wrongdoing or bribes, and that any wrongdoing has been forgiven by voters when they chose to re-elect him in 2022.
“After a five-month investigation in both the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate, which involved questioning more than a dozen witnesses and going through nearly 300,000 pages of documents, the two special prosecutors, who were charged at the taxpayer’s expense, got a blank check, Ken Paxton’s identity found. Bribery can’t find one — because it never happened,” Buzbee said in a statement shared with NBC News.
Paxton and his allies — including President Donald Trump — have also threatened political retaliation.
“Hopefully the Republicans in the Texas House will agree that this is a very unfair trial that should not take place or continue – I will fight you if it does,” Trump wrote on Truth Social during the impeachment proceedings against Paxton.
Who currently serves as Attorney General in Texas?
Angela Colmenero, longtime aide to Governor Greg Abbott, was appointed acting attorney general last month. After Paxton was suspended following his sudden impeachment in May, former Secretary of State John Scott oversaw the office until early July.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com