With closing arguments out of the way, senators will now determine the future of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

On Friday morning, representatives for both the House prosecutors and Paxton made their final pleas to senators ahead of a decision that could result in Paxton being removed from office.

The process for Paxton’s impeachment began in March of this year, when the House General Investigating Committee secretly tasked a group of investigators with looking into Paxton. 

The investigators’ report largely rehashed the ongoing indictment of Paxton on securities fraud charges that have been likened to a “political prosecution” for eight years and been the focus of multiple campaigns.

Their main focus was a settlement reached with four former employees of the Office of the Attorney General who say they were fired unfairly.

In October 2020, eight of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s top aides accused him of bribery and abuse of office. After being terminated from employment, four of them filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Paxton. They alleged that Paxton did political favors for Nate Paul, a real estate developer and donor, by having his office intervene in his legal disputes.

Just days after the report was presented, the House met in a Saturday meeting over Memorial Day weekend and voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton on 20 charges of misapplication of public resources, bribery, obstruction of justice, abuse of public trust, and disregard of official duties. 

In the end, 61 Democrats and 60 Republicans supported the impeachment, including House Speaker Dade Phelan.

Since then, Paxton has been temporarily suspended from office. 

For nine days, the Senate has held a trial to determine whether to convict Paxton, which would permanently remove Paxton from office. State Rep. Andrew Murr (R–Junction), who led the impeachment effort in the House, told senators in his closing argument that they discovered “unprecedented abuse in the attorney general’s office” as delivered by the “unabashedly conservative” former employees of the office of the attorney general.

Those witnesses, however, have often undermined the House’s case throughout the trial.

One whistleblower, Ryan Vassar, admitted to having no evidence when reporting Paxton to the FBI. Another, David Maxwell, said he made claims to House investigators and didn’t know whether or not those statements were true. 

This led to Tony Buzbee, one of Paxton’s attorneys, referring to the whistleblowers as “disgruntled ex-staffers.”

“There is shame here, and the shame sits right there that they would bring this case in this chamber with no evidence. If this could happen to him, it could happen to anyone,” said Buzbee.

The defense also noted that some of the whistleblowers refused to investigate the FBI, describing an effort to do so as “insane.”

Maxwell, who is a former Texas Ranger, would not investigate any law enforcement agency.

“You think he’s going to investigate the Texas Rangers? He’s in the Hall of Fame, for God’s sake,” said Buzbee.

The Bush family’s connection to the case was also invoked. Several of the whistleblowers have maintained legal representation by Johnny Sutton. Sutton was an advisor to George W. Bush when he served as Texas governor. Later, when Bush served as president, Sutton was appointed to be a U.S. attorney. 

When asked how much they were paying Sutton, two of the whistleblowers admitted to never being billed over the last three years. Buzbee called Sutton a “protege of the Bush regime.”

George P. Bush, who ran against Paxton in 2022, reactivated his law license at the same time the whistleblowers went to the FBI. He went on to lose to Paxton in the GOP runoff primary election last year.

“The Bush era in Texas ends today,” declared Buzbee.

With the closing arguments completed, senators will now deliberate before making their decision. The prosecution needs 21 senators, or a two-thirds majority, to remove Paxton from office.

If a decision is not reached by 8 pm. tonight, they will meet again tomorrow morning.

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens

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