Texas AG Impeachment Day 1: Paxton Pleads not Guilty, Dismissal Denied, Key Witness Testifies

Day 1 of Texas Senate Impeachment Trial of AG Ken Paxton. (AP Photos/Eric Gay)
AP Photos/Eric Gay

During the first day of the Texas Senate impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Senate “jurors” soundly rejected the defense motions to dismiss the 16 articles of impeachment brought by the House of Representatives. Following the vote on the motions, Paxton pleaded not guilty to all of the articles. During the afternoon session, former First Assistant Jeff Mateer began his testimony, and attorneys argued over the admission of evidence.

Following a lengthy swearing-in ceremony where Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and each of the 30 Senators swore their oaths on the historic Sam Houston Bible, the senators voted on each defense motion. With only one exception, the motions were defeated by a margin of more than two-thirds.

Senator Angela Paxton, AG Paxton’s wife, was not sworn in as a juror. She is, however, required by the Texas Constitution to be present. She is recused from voting, deliberating, or asking questions of any witnesses.

Paxton was present during the morning session as required by the Senate Rules for the impeachment proceeding. He chose not to be present in the afternoon session, which raised questions from Rusty Hardin, attorney for the House of Representatives. Paxton’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, responded that the rules only required Paxton to arrive before the start of the trial. He said the rules did not require Paxton’s presence throughout the day. Trial President Patrick concurred with Buzbee’s argument.

Paxton pleaded not guilty to all 16 articles of impeachment. Four articles relating to Paxton’s alleged securities crimes are being held in abeyance pending the end of the trial. Paxton will not be required to testify during the trial. As head of the Senate, Lt. Governor Patrick acts as “judge” of the proceedings. He ruled yesterday that because these proceedings are quasi-criminal in nature, the suspended AG would not have to testify.

Attorneys from both sides began the trial with their opening statements. The impassioned arguments from both sides left little doubt about the differences in interpretation of the evidence the senators will be asked to consider.

Lead defense attorney Buzbee warned the senators about the ramifications of a guilty verdict. “If this misguided effort is successful, which I am confident it will not be, the precedent would be perilous for any elected official,” Buzbee stated.

The House of Representatives’ impeachment managers told Senate jurors that Paxton “turned the keys” of the Attorney General’s Office over to indicted real estate developer Natin “Nate” Paul. The managers alleged that in exchange for legal assistance from Paxton on multiple criminal and civil matters, Paul helped Paxton hide an extramarital affair.

Representative Andrew Murr (R-Junction) reminded the jurors that the House does not have to prove that a crime was committed — only that great harm was done to the office and the people of Texas.

“We don’t have to show some type of quid pro quo to establish that his conduct warrants impeachment,” Representative Murr explained. “Wrongs justifying impeachment don’t have to be crimes. Wrongs justifying the impeachment are broader than that because they have the purpose of protecting the state, not punishing the offender.”

Paxton’s attorneys urged that the allegations were false and “never happened.” “This is a whole lot of nothing,” Buzbee said in his opening statement. Buzbee and co-counsel Dan Cogdell promised to disprove all allegations against Paxton. They argue that Paxton’s staff and the media have made sweeping assumptions about incidents that happened, and their conclusions were incorrect.

In the afternoon session, former First Assistant Jeff Mateer took the stand. Paxton was not present in the senate gallery. In an attempt to rebut defense claims that Paxton is being persecuted by moderate Republicans and Democrats in the House, Attorney Rusty Hardin asked Mateer, “Are you a RINO?” RINO is a pejorative slang for “Republican in Name Only.” Mateer responded that he is “far from right of center” in his political beliefs.

Mateer was nominated for a federal judicial bench by then-President Donald Trump. The U.S. Senate rejected his nomination after Mateer reportedly said that transgender children are part of “Satan’s plan.”

Mateer began to testify about Paxton’s interest in providing very unusual assistance to Nate Paul, a political donor to Paxton’s campaign. He said he became concerned when he learned that the Attorney General planned to argue a motion in a Travis County District Court in a case involving Paul and a non-profit charity.

Mateer said Paxton has many talents but is “not a litigator.” He added that the act of a sitting attorney general arguing a motion in such a small matter was “inconceivable.”

He scheduled a meeting with Paxton and Communications Director Marc Rylander to raise his concerns over Paxton’s plans to interject himself in this matter. Mateer jokingly said he asked Rylander to be present because while he (Mateer) is the first assistant, Rylander was referred to in the office as the “first friend” of Paxton.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She is a trial lawyer who served as a Texas prosecutor and family court associate judge.

Bob Price is the Breitbart Texas-Border team’s associate editor and senior news contributor. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to fix a typographical error.


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