Texas Senators held a discreet meeting in the state Capitol exactly one week before the high-stakes impeachment trial of Ken Paxton. Their closed-door session was exclusively dedicated to deliberating the trial’s rules and procedures, with no voting taking place.
With the trial set to commence on September 5th, the legislators gathered behind closed doors. However, there was a conspicuous absence of any voting activity during the session as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s spokesman Steven Aranyi confirmed to The Dallas Morning News.
Among the items left unaddressed was Paxton’s request for the dismissal of the articles of impeachment lodged against him. According to two senators who spoke with The Dallas Morning News, the focus of their meeting was solely on reviewing the rules and procedures for the upcoming trial.
Senator Royce West, representing Dallas, succinctly summarized their session, stating, “We just discussed the rules and regulations for next week.” He emphasized that no votes were taken, concluding, “We’re done for the week.”
Senator John Whitmire from Houston concurred, affirming, “Nothing to decide today.”
The shroud of secrecy enveloping the proceedings could be thanks to a gag order in place for all parties involved in the impeachment proceedings.
On Tuesday evening, a significant development emerged as an order signed by Lt. Gov. Patrick was posted on the impeachment’s website. This order mandated the appearance of all witnesses on the trial’s opening day. The witness list was extensive, comprising more than 100 individuals, including a woman allegedly involved in an affair with Paxton and the whistleblowers who have accused him of corruption.
Paxton’s lawyers have repeatedly said he will not testify, asserting his right against self-incrimination.
“We will not bow to their evil, illegal, and unprecedented weaponization of state power in the Senate chamber,” Tony Buzbee, Paxton’s defense lawyer, said of the House.
However, House managers argued Paxton must take the stand if subpoenaed, but can refuse to answer questions by exercising his constitutional right against self-incrimination, as reported by The Dallas Morning News.
Paxton and his legal defense maintains that the alleged actions fall within the purview of his authority as attorney general or are not grave enough to warrant impeachment. They have also urged the GOP-dominated Senate to quash his impeachment, a decision that would require a simple majority vote.
With the House’s decisive 121-23 vote in late May, Paxton faced immediate suspension from office. The trial itself won’t encompass criminal charges, as the Senate’s decision will decide his permanent removal.
The charges against him include allegations of abusing his office to aid Nate Paul, a real estate developer and campaign contributor facing federal financial crime indictments, as well as conspiracy, bribery, and unfitness for office. In total, Paxton faces 20 articles of impeachment.
The fate of Paxton hinges on the Senate’s decision; if two-thirds of the senators vote to convict him on any article of impeachment, he will be removed from office. Moreover, the Senate has the authority to bar him from holding any elected office in Texas in the future.
It’s worth noting that Paxton’s wife, Senator Angela Paxton of McKinney, will not partake in the vote concerning her husband’s removal.