AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Saturday morning, the Texas Senate was set to vote on the articles of impeachment in Ken Paxton’s trial.
The House board of impeachment managers and defense attorneys for suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton gave closing arguments in the historic trial Friday, making their final cases to the 30 eligible senators who will decide whether Paxton can keep his elected title.
Closing arguments started at 9 a.m. Friday. Watch in the video players within this story, or on KXAN’s Facebook page.
The prosecution and defense had one hour each to make their final pitch to jurors. After that, eligible jurors — excluding Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney — meet privately to deliberate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has presided over the trial as a judge, is also excluded from deliberation.
Closing arguments wrapped up just before noon.
House impeachment managers ask senators to follow conscience, not politics
The above video shows the House board of impeachment managers giving closing arguments.
Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, has played a significant role in the impeachment effort against Paxton as chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, as well as the House board of impeachment managers.
Murr, in his closing arguments, said the trial exposed the wrongdoings of Paxton.
“Over the last two weeks, the Senate has faithfully carried out its constitutional duty to listen to the evidence,” said Murr. “We discovered unprecedented abuse in the Texas Attorney General’s Office.”
Murr claimed that unprecedented abuse stretched to negatively impacting various aspects of Texas society.
“Unlike the public servants here today, he has no regard for the principles of honor and integrity,” Murr said. “Mr. Paxton put the risk of the citizens of Texas, of the business of Texas, and the lives of law enforcement at stake.”
Murr delivered opening arguments for managers on day one of the trial and split up his closing remarks, starting with 10 minutes of remarks before passing it off to the defense — which used its full time all at once.
Defense reiterates ‘no evidence’ argument, calls impeachment a ‘witch hunt’
The above video shows suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton’s defense attorneys giving closing arguments.
In closing arguments for the defense, co-lead counsel Tony Buzbee took up the majority of their one hour.
“There is shame here. And the shame sits right there that they would bring this case in this chamber with no evidence. I am proud to represent Attorney General Ken Paxton. If this can happen to him, it can happen to anyone,” Buzbee said.
Dan Cogdell, Paxton’s longtime attorney, took over for the remaining time — joking he planned for 30 minutes, not five.
The theme of no proper evidence continued as Cogdell claimed there needs to be “reasonable doubt” that Paxton did what the articles accused him of doing.
The above video shows the prosecution giving their final closing arguments before deliberation began Friday.
After the defense wrapped up, Murr continued for about 40 more minutes before handing it off to Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, another member of the board.
Leach — who is from a similar area as the Paxton family — continued with brief remarks under ten minutes, with a focus on his friendship with Paxton.
“I have loved Ken Paxton for a long time,” said Leach. “I’ve done life with Ken Paxton.”
Despite Paxton and Leach going way back, Leach emphasized it is important to “sustain” the Articles of Impeachments drafted by the Texas House and vote based on their conscience.
Paxton appeared in the Senate chamber Friday morning for the first time since his impeachment trial began. He’ll listen to the prosecution and defense deliver their closing arguments.
The near-end of the trial comes after senators — functioning as a jury — heard from more than a dozen witnesses testifying about their firsthand experience with Paxton, who is accused of abuse of office, bribery, and obstruction of justice.
KXAN’s Monica Madden is covering the trial and posting live updates on X (formerly Twitter). See below (note: you must be logged into X to view).
What happens next?
It is unclear how long it will take senators to come to a decision, there are no time limits on their deliberation. Once they are finished, the 30 senators will return to the Senate floor to make their positions known in an open session.
Jurors will vote separately on each article without debate or discussion. Senators will submit a written vote on the question: “Shall this article of impeachment be sustained?” For each article, the court clerk will read, in random order, how each senator voted. They will have three days to submit a written explanation of their votes for publication in the Senate Journal.
A vote of two-thirds of senators, 21 total, to sustain an article is a conviction. Merely one article conviction on any of the 16 impeachment articles will result in Paxton’s removal from office as the attorney general of Texas.
Senators may also decide whether to bar the three-term Republican from holding future office. On Wednesday, House managers filed a motion to effectively combine the votes — meaning conviction would result in his automatic prohibition from running for future office. However, the jury declined to grant that motion on Thursday.
Paxton faces 16 articles of impeachment in the Senate that accuse him of abusing his powers as attorney general to help his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor who faced federal investigation and is central to many of the allegations against Paxton. The suspended attorney general pleaded not guilty to all impeachment articles on day one of the trial.
History of prior impeachment in Texas
There have only been two statewide officials that have been impeached in Texas History: Governor James “Pa” Ferguson and O.P. Carrillo, a district judge.
Ferguson faced impeachment in 1917 after accusations of embezzlement and other charges. He is the only governor and statewide elected official to be impeached on the state’s history books, according to the Texas State Historical Association. However, Ferguson resigned after senators voted to convict him — before he could be formally removed from office.
Carrillo became the second official to be impeached in 1976. Carrillo was removed from office for evading payment of income taxes.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.