Texas Senate deliberates at Republican attorney general’s impeachment trial

Suspended Texas state Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton stands with his attorneys flanking him
Suspended Texas state Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton, center, stands with his attorneys Tony Buzbee, front, and Mitch Little as his impeachment trial continues in the Senate chamber at the Texas Capitol on Friday.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

The impeachment trial of suspended Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton moved Friday into the hands of a Senate jury that was deciding whether the Republican should be removed from office over corruption allegations that have shadowed him for years.

The jury of mostly GOP senators met for about eight hours in secret without emerging for a vote. Deliberations were set to resume Saturday morning.

The deliberations pushed Paxton, whose three terms in office have been marred by scandal and criminal charges, closer to a defining test of his political durability after an extraordinary impeachment that was driven by his fellow Republicans and has widened party fractures in America’s biggest red state. For nearly a decade, Paxton has elevated his national profile by rushing his office into polarizing courtroom battles across the U.S., winning acclaim from former President Trump and the GOP’s hard right.


Making one final appeal to convict Texas’ top lawyer, impeachment managers who include some of Paxton’s former friends cast him as a crook. The time has come, they argued, for the state and the Republican Party to sever ties.

“If we don’t keep public officials from abusing the powers of their office, then frankly no one can,” said Republican state Rep. Andrew Murr, a member of the bipartisan group of impeachment managers from the Texas House of Representatives, in his closing arguments.

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If convicted, Paxton would become Texas’ first statewide official convicted on impeachment charges in more than 100 years.

In an angry and defiant rebuttal, Paxton lawyer Tony Buzbee unleashed attacks on a wide-ranging cast of figures inside and outside the Texas Capitol, mocking a Texas Ranger who warned Paxton he was risking indictment and another accuser who cried on the witness stand.

Leaning into flaring divisions among Republicans, Buzbee portrayed the impeachment as a plot orchestrated by an old guard of GOP rivals. He singled out George P. Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush who challenged Paxton in the 2022 Republican primary, punctuating a blistering closing argument that questioned the integrity of FBI agents and railed against Texas’ most famous political dynasty.

“This is a political trial,” Buzbee said. “I would suggest to you it’s a political witch hunt.”


Paxton, who until Friday had attended only the first few hours of the trial, sat at the defense table and sipped from a cup.

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His return did not go unnoticed.

“He hasn’t even bothered to be here for the whole trial,” Murr said. “Clearly he thinks he might get away with this.”

Sitting across the room from Paxton was his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, who was required to attend the whole trial but is barred from participating in deliberations or voting on her husband’s political fate.

In the Senate gallery were three of Paxton’s former deputies who reported him to the FBI in 2020, accusing him of breaking the law to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. All three of the ex-deputies testified, included the former Texas Ranger, David Maxwell.

Their whistleblower accounts launched an FBI investigation that will continue regardless of the verdict. Federal prosecutors investigating Paxton took testimony in August before a grand jury in San Antonio, according to two people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because of secrecy rules around the proceeding.

One said the grand jury heard from Drew Wicker, Paxton’s former personal aide. At the impeachment trial, Wicker testified that he once heard a contractor tell Paxton he would need to check with “Nate” about the cost of renovations to the attorney general’s Austin home.


Paul was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks to obtain more than $170 million in loans. He has pleaded not guilty.

During closing arguments, the defense focused on telling senators that there was either no evidence for the charges or that any evidence didn’t rise beyond a reasonable doubt. The House impeachment managers, by contrast, walked through specific documents and played clips of testimony by the deputies who reported Paxton to the FBI.

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The last word of closing arguments came from one of Paxton’s former friends, Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach, who said that he “loved” his onetime political mentor and that they attended church together. Still, he told senators, Paxton deserved punishment.

One of the impeachment articles centers on an alleged extramarital affair Paxton had with Laura Olson, who worked for Paul. It alleges that Paul’s hiring of Olson amounted to a bribe. In a dramatic scene this week, she was called to the witness stand but ultimately never testified.

The verdict will be decided by 30 state senators, most of them Republicans. Convicting him on any of the 16 articles of impeachment requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, meaning if all 12 Democrats vote to convict, they would need nine Republicans to join them.

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said the trial will continue through the weekend if necessary.


With time running out, Paxton on Thursday pointed to renewed support from Trump, who criticized the impeachment as “shameful” in a post on his social media platform.

The move Saturday triggers his immediate suspension and sets up a trial in the state Senate that could permanently remove Texas’ top law enforcement official from office.

May 27, 2023

For years, Trump has fanned the flames of his supporters’ distrust of the FBI in the face of legal troubles. On Friday, Buzbee leaned into those misgivings during closing arguments that were televised and aimed at an audience beyond the senators in the room.

“Do we believe that the FBI is always on the up and up? Or can we all agree sometimes they pick and they choose?” Buzbee said.

Like Trump, Paxton faces an array of legal troubles. He remains under federal investigation for the same allegations that gave rise to his impeachment and faces a bar disciplinary proceeding over his effort to overturn the 2020 election.

Paxton has yet to stand trial on state securities fraud charges dating to 2015. He pleaded not guilty in that case, but his lawyers have said removal from office might open the door to a plea agreement.

Bleiberg reported from Dallas.