As widely expected after Donald Trump made it clear earlier this week that any Texas state Republican senator who votes for AG Ken Paxton's removal would face political extermination, Paxton easily survived his Texas Senate impeachment trial and has been fully reinstated to office with the Texas House charges dismissed.
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.
"Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr. is hereby, at this moment, reinstated to office," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Republican president of the Senate who also presided over the trial.
While two Republican senators broke with their party to vote for conviction on some articles of impeachment, the vast majority of Paxton's party voted to acquit him following a two-week trial and a day of deliberations behind closed doors. Four impeachment articles that had been put on hold during the trial were dismissed immediately after the acquittal vote.
Paxton had been suspended without pay from his post after he was impeached in the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives in May by an overwhelming vote.
"The attorney general is excited and ready to get back to work, and that's what he's gonna do," said Paxton attorney Tony Buzbee.
Only two Republicans voted to remove Paxton on any of the 16 charges he faced, meaning he never got closer than 14 of the 21 votes needed to convict him on any of the charges. Nobody wanted to tangle with Trump, Tucker Carlson, and the armed Texas MAGA mob.
Paxton, who attended just two days of the trial and was not present to witness his exoneration, was characteristically defiant.
“The sham impeachment coordinated by the Biden Administration with liberal House Speaker Dade Phelan and his kangaroo court has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, disrupted the work of the Office of Attorney General and left a dark and permanent stain on the Texas House,” Paxton said in a statement. “The weaponization of the impeachment process to settle political differences is not only wrong, it is immoral and corrupt.”
The dramatic votes capped a two-week trial where a parade of witnesses, including former senior officials under Paxton, testified that the attorney general had repeatedly abused his office by helping his friend, struggling Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, investigate and harass his enemies, delay foreclosure sales of his properties and obtain confidential records on the police investigating him. In return, House impeachment managers said Paul paid to renovate Paxton’s Austin home and helped him carry out and cover up an extramarital affair with a former Senate aide.
In the end, senators were unpersuaded.
"This should have never happened," Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, told reporters outside the chamber. He criticized what he called a rushed and flawed investigation by the House.
But acquittal was not a foregone conclusion during the eight hours of deliberation, Sen. Royce West said. The Democrat from Dallas said some Republicans supported conviction but switched their votes when it became clear it did not have the required two-thirds support.
Retribution, I expect, will be swift for Texas House Republicans and the two Republican state senators who broke ranks. The real battle will be between Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the coming years over Gov. Greg Abbott's job...if Abbott doesn't run for a record fourth term himself in 2026.
Ultimately though, Paxton's impeachment was meaningless. We'll see if the federal case against him goes anywhere, although it hasn't in years.