(AUSTIN, Texas) — The jury, consisting of Texas senators, has acquitted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on 16 articles of impeachment he faced in a rare Texas Senate impeachment trial after Paxton was suspended by the Texas House in May.
The 16 articles were rejected overwhelmingly, with not even a simple majority voting in favor of any of the articles. A supermajority of 21 votes was required to convict Paxton on an impeachment article.
The senators subsequently voted to dismiss four additional articles that were being held in abeyance.
Closing arguments in the Texas Senate impeachment trial of Paxton began Friday morning with short remarks from the prosecution’s Rep. Andrew Murr, who led the House impeachment managers’ investigation, and which were followed by arguments from two of Paxton’s attorneys, Tony Buzbee and Dan Cogdell. After the House impeachment managers’ side finished their remarks, which they returned to after Paxton’s side spoke, the jury of senators began deliberations, which will be closed to the public.
Paxton was tried on 16 articles of impeachment that center around allegations that the attorney general abused his office through an improper relationship with campaign donor and real estate investor, Natin “Nate” Paul.
Both Paul and Paxton have denied wrongdoing. Unrelated to the allegations involving Paxton, Paul faces eight felony counts for allegedly making false statements to mortgage lenders and credit unions to secure business loans, and his trial is set to begin next summer. Paul entered a not guilty plea in June.
Paxton has denounced the impeachment proceedings, which were overwhelmingly backed by state House Republicans, as a “sham.”
Both Paxton’s defense and Paul have also denied accusations of bribery.
Murr split his allotted time and opened only with a few minutes of closing arguments before allowing the defense to speak. In his initial remarks before the Senate, he said, “Mr. Paxton’s attorneys like to remind everyone that he was elected by 4.2 million voters, but they have blindly ignored the fact that he has ultimately ended up serving one person: himself.” Murr also criticized Paxton’s absence from the chamber during most of the trial; Paxton attended a few hours on day one of the trial, only returning for closing arguments on Friday, nearly two weeks later.
A passionate Buzbee spent his final moments before the jury arguing that the defense proved that the prosecution has shown no impeachable evidence against Paxton.
He categorized the allegations made by the House impeachment managers regarding Paxton’s relationship with Paul into what he described as “three buckets: campaign donation, house renovations, and Olson job,” referring to a job procured for Laura Olson, with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair. Paxton has never publicly admitted to the alleged affair, but his counsel did not deny the alleged affair during the trial. Olson has never addressed the alleged affair publicly.
Buzbee proceeded to elaborate on what he argued was a lack of evidence the prosecution presented for each category.
Earlier in the trial, Buzbee criticized a 2018 donation Paul made to Paxton’s campaign, which the prosecution has argued is evidence of a bribe, stating, “If campaign donations were bribes, everybody in this town would be impeached.”
In a similar defense made in his closing remarks, Buzbee said of Paxton’s alleged affair: “If this impeachment is based on a marital impropriety, then line up. Line up. We’re gonna be doing a lot of impeaching in this city.”
Buzbee leveled accusations against multiple parties in his closing remarks, some of which were in no way affiliated with the trial for the 16 articles of impeachment. He took aim at President Joe Biden and multiple federal agencies, suggesting a larger political agenda at play.
“If you don’t think that the Biden administration and its FBI and Department of Justice would not love, would not love to indict Ken Paxton, then you’re not paying attention. They’ve done nothing. You know why they’ve done nothing? Because there’s nothing to do,” he told jurors.
Additionally, Buzbee called the whistleblowers who testified during the trial “so-called whistleblowers, which are nothing but disgruntled ex-staffers.”
Cogdell followed his co-counsel, criticizing the case against Paxton.
“Some of the greatest lawyers in Texas literally could not put together a cogent case that could convince anyone that these things occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. These aren’t second chair misdemeanor prosecutors,” he said. “They were the best of the best. They did the best they could. But the evidence simply wasn’t there.”
Murr followed for the prosecution by urging senators, “Members of the jury, this is the most important choice you have ever faced in 100 years. It’s probably the only vote that anyone will ever talk about in your careers.”
Murr spent a considerable portion of his time replaying videos of witness testimony before the jury, responding to each point made by the defense with what he argued was evidence outlining wrongdoing by the attorney general, who said that bribery didn’t happen and the alleged affair wasn’t relevant.
“Now is your time to do right,” he concluded his remarks with.
Rep. Jeff Leach gave the prosecution’s closing arguments.
“Mr. Buzbee, you said in your closing that we’re here because we hate Ken Paxton, and you could not be more wrong. I have loved Ken Paxton for a long time,” he told jurors, before listing many ways in which he said the pair bonded over their relationship.
Leach addressed the whistleblowers present in the room, whom over the trial spent hours testifying before the Senate.
“I see some of the whistleblowers are here in the gallery this morning. These are men and women of high esteem, character, conservative to the core. And you courageously spoke out, knowing the consequences and taking the risk. Much like all of us have had to do, and will have to do, with this vote. I want you to do know the House has seen you and heard you,” he said.
He urged the jury “not to ask yourself what is safe or popular or politic, but what is right. And I believe that it is right, as painful as it might be, for us and for you to vote to sustain the articles of impeachment committed to you by the Texas House of Representatives.”
Leach ended his remarks by saying he prays “God’s grace, and favor, his wisdom and discernment over you as you deliberate and vote on this historic matter.”
While the duration of deliberations is not now known, the presiding judge over the trial, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, told jurors they should plan to work through the weekend if needed and will take no days off until they are ready to present their votes publicly.
He remarked Friday morning before closing arguments that “for the public, this is like 16 trials in one. This is not a normal trial,” stressing the number of articles the senators were responsible for deliberating over.
ABC News’ Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.
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