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Last week, the Texas Senate acquitted suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton on all articles of impeachment. Many of the acquittal votes were 14 to convict, 16 to acquit with a couple others having different results. There was a total of 20 articles of impeachment against AG Paxton but 16 of the 20 were decided by the jury. The acting jury – Texas Senate – found Paxton guilty on any of the articles of impeachment. On the most convincing charges, the jury turned a blind eye. This trial was a sham.
Let me be clear about this. The trial was unfair and partial. It was rigged from the start and the heist came at the end. It was not, however, the reasons that play out in the narrative of the media. Those are a symptom of the sickness. Allow me to explain.
A few things were at play in this impeachment trial. One was the immediate partiality tilted towards Paxton when he was, one, allowed to leave after the beginning moments of the trial’s first day and returned when he saw fit; two, he was not forced to testify in the trial, even though the Senate voted for him to do so when it adopted trial rules earlier in the summer; three, the alleged mistress Laura Olson who was the epicenter of the scandal and impeachment was not allowed to testify. In a published exchange with House prosecutor Rusty Hardin on X – formerly known as Twitter – journalist Eva Ruth Moravec posted the reason for Olson’s dismissal as she planned to plead the 5th Amendment, which allows citizens the ability to not incriminate themselves when testifying. This would have been an odd play seeing how adultery, while sordid, is not illegal. It was, however, a good enough reason for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to prevent her from testifying. The fourth reason was four of the 20 articles of impeachment, which included the charges for which he faces in federal court, were not part of the Senate deliberation. Why those charges were ignored is a question Patrick must answer because on any of those charges, the chances of Paxton being found guilty were exponentially higher than the others and Paxton would have been removed from office. The fifth reason was the $3 million donation Patrick accepted from Defend Texas Liberty PAC, a pro-Paxton political action committee. There are other pieces circulating with other takes on the trial and its end, but really only Houston Chronicle/San Antonio Express-News political reporter Jeremy Wallace truly captured what was afoot. In his podcast with Quorum Report editor Scott Braddock, Wallace unveiled the underlying issue of the Paxton trial, the ongoing feud with House Speaker Dade Phelan and Patrick. This soap opera saga reached a new level when Lt. Governor Patrick read a speech chastising the Texas House of Representatives for its impeachment. Patrick called the impeachment “rammed through” the House. He furthered admonished the lower chamber and its leadership for apparently ignoring set precedent from the 1917 and 1975 impeachments of Governor James Ferguson and Judge O.P. Carrillo respectively. Not to be shown up, House Speaker Phelan clapped back at the upper chamber’s leader. To quote his statement in part, “…I find it deeply concerning that after weeks of claiming he would preside over this trial in an impartial and honest manner, Patrick would conclude by confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people’s House on full display. To be clear, Patrick attacked the House for standing up against corruption. His tirade disrespects the Constitutional impeachment process afforded to us by the founders of this great state. The inescapable conclusion is that today’s outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice.”
This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the height of political drama. Let us not forget that Phelan and Patrick could not get along when they agreed on property taxes. Folks, it took a regular session and two special sessions for the chambers’ leaders to finally collaborate on a key issue Texas Republicans have chased for nearly two decades! Another fact we must face is these two simply cannot get along. I wrote this past summer how Dan Patrick has little respect for Phelan but it always appears as though Patrick is the one who stays and the House Speaker is the one to change.
Let me reiterate, Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial had nothing to do with his guilt. To further that point, Patrick admitted exactly that on a local radio talk show. It was a power play by the Lt. Governor as he showed the proverbial middle finger to the House and Phelan. Everything else that happened was secondary to that fact.
Now, imagine being Gov. Greg Abbott and wanting to call a special session in October on school vouchers. That sounds more like a trick than a treat.
Drew Landry is an assistant professor of government at South Plains College.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Landry: The Heist also known as the Ken Paxton impeachment trial