Impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was acquitted on 16 impeachment articles on Saturday, thwarting an effort to remove him from office over allegations of corruption.
His acquittal follows a two-week trial and a day of deliberations. Paxton was impeached in the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives in May by an overwhelming vote.
Paxton rose to prominence as a top legal adversary of former President Barack Obama’s administration, and later as a key ally of former President Donald Trump’s administration. Lawsuits to overturn the Affordable Care Act, legal protections of young undocumented immigrants, and the results of the 2020 election made him a popular force for the right, even after he was indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015.
But his political support fractured this year when the state House impeached him over allegations of abuse of office and bribery.
While House Republicans enjoyed an element of surprise — the investigation into Paxton was largely done in secret before House leaders went public and quickly moved for a vote — the senators faced months of political pressure leading up to the trial.
Paxton allies promised that Republicans who voted against the attorney general would see well-funded primary challengers, while Trump made it clear he was backing Paxton.
The articles of impeachment accused Paxton of accepting bribes from, and giving legal assistance to, campaign donor and developer Nate Paul, while disregarding his official duties to the people of Texas. He was accused of improperly firing employees who reported his actions to federal authorities, lying about his actions, misusing government funds to dispute their allegations and more.
The Senate agreed to consider evidence from 16 articles at trial, with four articles relating to his 2015 criminal indictment placed on hold.
Paxton denied wrongdoing throughout the trial, and his attorneys fiercely defended him. They insisted that Paxton had not accepted bribes and that Paul was merely an entitled, annoying individual who had not received anything of value from Paxton.
The senators-turned-jurors heard testimony from seven former senior Paxton aides detailing months of concern and alarm they felt over Paxton’s relations with Paul, and their eventual decision to take the extraordinary step of reporting their boss to the FBI.
“I went to the FBI because I believed based on my experience over the previous nine months that the attorney general had abandoned his obligation to work on behalf of the interests of the people of Texas, to serve the interest of one person, Nate Paul,” Ryan Bangert, a former top aide to Paxton, said in sworn testimony last week.