According to comments from suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment lawyer Tony Buzbee, it looks like Paxton’s team is trying to head off the trial by appearing before the Rule Committee instead.
Speaking to radio host Mark Davis, Buzbee said the team had “sent a letter to the lieutenant governor and … asked to appear before the rules committee,” as well as looking for “a mechanism at the beginning to throw it out.”
Impeachment is incredibly rare in Texas. Paxton is only the third public official in the state’s history to be impeached. The exact mechanism of the upcoming trial in the Senate is still being determined. It’s not impossible that the rules committee could, if it wanted to, circumvent or hamstring the process to save Paxton.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has promised to be an impartial head of the proceedings in the Senate, which are scheduled to begin June 20.
“Look at me like a judge before a case and look at our senators like that. Be respectful of their space and time,” Patrick said in May. “This is very serious. These are very serious people, and the Senate is going to do our job in a professional way.”
Paxton was overwhelmingly impeached by a bipartisan majority in the Texas House. He stands accused of using his office to punish whistleblowers. The articles include Paxton’s use of $3.3 million to settle a lawsuit whistleblowers in his office brought against them after they reported him to the federal government for corruption.
Paxton’s legal troubles are legion. He remains under state indictment for securities fraud related to his friend and donor Nate Paul, an Austin real estate developer who was recently arrested by the FBI. Paxton has slow-walked his trial for years, arguing over special prosecutor pay and other minutia to keep it from going to trial.
Meanwhile, members of his staff accused Paxton of using his power to hamper investigations against Paul. When they blew the whistle, Paxton fired them, resulting in the lawsuit that led to his impeachment.
That his fellow Republicans were so willing to turn on him is a good indicator that his chances in the impeachment trial are not as good as they might be. Seven Republicans will serve as impeachment managers alongside five Democrats. The Senate is also Republican majority, including Paxton’s own wife. She has not said whether she will recuse herself from the proceedings.
Nonetheless, Buzbee has been calling the proceedings a witch hunt. The failed Houston mayoral candidate and lawyer has repeatedly made press appearances calling the accusations false and stating Paxton will never be convicted in the Senate.
However, his attempt to enlist the lieutenant governor in stopping the proceedings at the committee level indicates that Buzbee might not have as many cards to play as he publicly states. This far, Patrick has not publicly responded to the letter, nor is there any indication he plans to thwart the trial.
Paxton is currently suspended without pay while the matter proceeds. John Scott serves as the interim attorney general.