AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Closing arguments were set for Friday in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial that has pushed the embattled Republican to the brink of removal over charges of corruption and bribery.
The historic proceedings are speeding to an end as Paxton, shadowed for years by scandal and criminal charges, faces a defining test of political durability after an impeachment driven by his fellow Republicans that has widened party fractures in America’s biggest red state.
A verdict from the Texas Senate could arrive as soon as Friday.
The closing arguments are the last chance for impeachment managers, led by the Texas House of Representatives, to make their case that Paxton is unfit for office over allegations he abused his power in an effort to protect a political donor who was under FBI investigation.
One of the charges centers on an alleged extramarital affair Paxton had with a woman who worked for the donor, resulting in a dramatic scene this week when the woman was called to the witness stand but ultimately never testified.
On Thursday, Paxton’s lawyers wrapped up their defense in a single day, calling just four witness who all currently work for the three-term incumbent. They testified they have not seen Paxton do anything wrong.
“I assured myself and I assured my wife that if there were ever anything that I saw that were illegal or unethical that I would step away,” said Austin Kinghorn, a lawyer in Paxton’s office. “And I’m still here. I’m proud of the work we do. I’m proud to serve General Paxton.”
The verdict will be up to 30 state senators, most of them Republicans like Paxton. Convicting him on any of the 16 articles of impeachment requires a two-thirds-majority in the Senate, meaning if all 12 Democrats vote to convict, they would need nine Republicans to join them.
Adding to the extraordinary nature of the proceedings, the Senate includes Paxton’s wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, who has attended the duration of the two week trial but is barred from voting.
Deliberations will be done privately. It is unclear how quickly the state Senate could reach a verdict, but Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said the trial will continue through the weekend if necessary.
With time running out, Paxton on Thursday pointed to renewed support from Donald Trump, who blasted the impeachment as “shameful” in the waning moments of a trial that has laid bare rifts among Texas Republicans.
“Democrats are feeling very good right now as they watch, as usual, the Republicans fight & eat away at each other. It’s a SAD day in the Great State of Texas!” Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social.
The trial centers on accusations that Paxton abused his power and broke the law to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks in order to obtain more than $170 million in loans. Paul has pleaded not guilty.
Paxton, who was suspended from office pending the trial’s outcome, is not required to attend the proceedings and has not appeared since testimony began last week.
Paxton has said he will travel to Maine next week to talk with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. On Thursday, he touted Trump’s support in an online appeal for donations that included photos of him with the former president.
Like Trump, Paxton is facing an array of legal troubles and the accompanying lawyers’ fees. He remains under federal investigation for the same allegations that gave rise to his impeachment and faces a bar disciplinary proceeding over his effort to overturn the 2020 election.
Paxton has yet to stand trial on state securities fraud charges dating to 2015. He pleaded not guilty in that case, but his lawyers have said removal from office might open the door to a plea agreement.
Paxton’s impeachment trial has focused on the testimony of his former staff, including a group of senior deputies who reported the attorney general to the FBI in 2020, accusing him of breaking the law to help Paul. The prosecutors spent considerable time establishing the group’s conservative credentials.
If convicted, Paxton would become Texas’ first statewide official convicted on impeachment charges in more than 100 years.
Bleiberg reported from Dallas.
Find AP’s full coverage of the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at: https://apnews.com/hub/ken-paxton
Paul J. Weber And Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press