In a resounding decision, on Saturday the Texas state Senate acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment against him. After months of a politically charged atmosphere, the decision reinstated Paxton as the Attorney General of the State of Texas. The decision not only marks a personal victory for Paxton but also serves as a cautionary tale about the weaponization of the impeachment process.
The impeachment trial, led by the Texas State House, had accused Paxton of a range of misdeeds, from bribery to dereliction of duty. He was even accused of using a fake Uber account in connection with a real estate investor whose ties to Paxton were already under scrutiny. The charges had a touch of sensationalism, perhaps aimed more at tarnishing Paxton’s reputation than at a serious judicial evaluation of his actions.
Impeachment Trial of Attorney General Warren Kenneth Paxton, Jr.
"The Bush Era ends TODAY in
Acquitted on ALL Charges!
Don't Mess With Texas!" pic.twitter.com/WArstQwZnC
— CCBee (@SeaSeaBee) September 16, 2023
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who presided over the Senate trial, brought a level-headed approach to the proceedings. Patrick instructed that “An impeachment article is not divisible.” He further emphasized that senators needed to consider “each allegation in each article and determine whether the managers have proved each allegation in an article beyond a reasonable doubt.” Patrick signed the order of acquittal and reinstated Paxton, echoing many Texans’ sentiments about the impeachment’s flawed nature.
Paxton called the impeachment a “sham” and thanked those who “followed the law and refused to overturn an election.” In a state where more than 60 Republicans in the House had crossed party lines to impeach him, the Senate vote was a reassertion of sanity and due process. Only two Republicans in the Senate voted to remove Paxton from office.
President Donald Trump, always a bellwether of conservative opinion, backed Paxton on his social media platform Truth Social. Trump criticized the “RINOS” who attempted to “undo that Election with a shameful impeachment of him.”
What was interesting about the trial is that none of the votes on the impeachment articles could meet the 21-senator threshold for conviction. The closest any vote got was 14 senators in favor, making the acquittal decisive.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who remained neutral during the impeachment process, weighed in after the Senate’s decision. He said, “Attorney General Paxton received a fair trial as required by the Texas Constitution. Attorney General Paxton has done an outstanding job representing Texas, especially pushing back against the Biden Administration.”
This trial was not just about Paxton but about the precedent it set. In a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, stated that the Senate “overwhelmingly voted to acquit Attorney General Ken Paxton of all counts” after a trial that “could muster no evidence of a crime.”
The episode leaves us with lessons about the fragility of due process when political agendas come into play. It serves as a reminder that impeachment should never be a tool for settling scores or creating political theater. Instead, it should be a last resort when the rule of law is in peril.