Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick huddles with his advisors during the former attorney Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial

Texas AG Ken Paxton’s Impeachment Trial Is Off to a Messy Start

It's not the time to give a speech!

When charged with a crime in the U.S. court system, no one is forced to testify in their own defense. This is a valid right that can be exercised by all defendants, whether on trial for civil, criminal, or impeachment matters. However. There are procedures in place to keep people from, say, refusing to testify but then still trying to get their testimony across in sneaky ways, like through the mouths of their attorneys. Which is exactly what Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seems to be trying to do.

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Paxton’s impeachment trial is currently underway in the Texas Senate after being charged with 16 counts in relation to corruption. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday via his attorney Tony Buzbee. What Buzbee actually said was, “The allegations are untrue, therefore Ken Paxton pleads not guilty.” Which already seems a little bit more than the usual utterance.

Buzbee delivered a number of what were described as “preambles” before stating that his client pleaded not guilty. “Attorney General Paxton stands by the report and therefore pleads not guilty,” he said, referring to that report he characterized as “misleading.” Another example is when Buzbee called the charges regarding an alleged mistress “flat-out false.” Standard responses for an attorney would be a basic guilty or not guilty.

Of course, Paxton has the opportunity to speak for himself. He could go before the Texas Senate and give his defense. But he has chosen to stay silent. Which, again, is his right! Asking his attorney to go on grandstanding tangents is not. Rusty Hardin, acclaimed attorney for the House impeachment team, took issue with all of the shenanigans. “If [Paxton] wants to take the stand and testify, we welcome that, but otherwise it’s supposed to be from the client,” he said. He also described Buzbee’s actions as making speeches on behalf of his client. 

The charges against Paxton

The Attorney General has some wild charges against him, which paint a picture of ongoing abuses of power. The charges claim that he used his office to attack political enemies and fired deputies who wanted to dissuade him. At the center of a lot of this is Nate Paul, an Austin realtor. The state House is alleging that Paul had paid Paxton for his protection, part of which included a job for Paxton’s mistress. 

Along with these acts, there was evidence of an alleged cover-up because there’s always a cover-up! According to The Hill, one such claim is that Paxton tried to conceal evidence of wrongdoing by filing a “misleading” report in order to defend Paul and oppose whistleblowers working to expose Paxton. Count after count showed an alleged corrupt relationship between Paxton and Paul and the extent to which he acted to protect this guy. But as each count was read, House lawyers representing the impeachment team called out Paxton’s attorney for, in essence, speaking for him. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sustained their objection and the rest of the charges were entered as a simple “not guilty” on Paxton’s behalf.

What a messy start to this trial, and just the sort of performative martyrdom you’d expect from Paxton and his team. It isn’t particularly joyful when another politician is being revealed as totally corrupt, but if there’s going to be a trial, at least make it entertaining, right? It will be interesting to see how the rest of this plays out!

(via The Hill, featured image: Brandon Bell/Getty Images)


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