A flurry of contrasting reactions has followed news that a jury of state senators on Saturday voted to acquit Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment.
Mr. Paxton, who was reelected to a third term in November 2022, was impeached by Texas’s GOP-led House on allegations including bribery and abuse of power.
It was alleged that Mr. Paxton—who called the impeachment a political witch hunt—used his office to help Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, who was under federal investigation. Mr. Paul was recently indicted on federal charges of making false statements to banks, with Mr. Paxton not mentioned in the indictments.
Mr. Paxton’s impeachment led to his suspension from the Office of the Attorney General of Texas (OAG).
After eight days of testimony, Texas state senators voted on Sept. 16 to acquit Mr. Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment, opening the door to his reinstatement at the OAG.
“Today, the truth prevailed. The truth could not be buried by mudslinging politicians or their powerful benefactors. I’ve said many times: Seek the truth! And that is what was accomplished,” Mr. Paxton said in a statement after the acquittal.
Mr. Paxton’s acquittal was met with an outpouring of reactions on social media—both positive and negative.
‘Disgraceful Sham’ and Other Reactions
Soon after news broke of Mr. Paxton’s acquittal, former President Donald Trump weighed in, congratulating him and criticizing the impeachment trial.
“Congratulations to Attorney General Ken Paxton on a great and historic Texas sized VICTORY. I also want to congratulate his wonderful wife and family for having had to go through this ordeal, and WINNING,” President Trump wrote in a post on social media.
President Trump also thanked Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who served as a judge in the trial, along with Republican state senators, who the former president said showed “great professionalism and fairness.”
At the same time, President Trump singled out for criticism Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, who in a statement of his own lamented the decision to acquit Mr. Paxton as “extremely unfortunate” and pointed out that Mr. Paxton is still the subject of multiple lawsuits and investigations and had “clearly abused his power, compromised his agency and its employees, and moved mountains to protect and benefit himself.”
President Trump called on Mr. Phelan to “resign after pushing this Disgraceful Sham!”
In his statement, Mr. Phelan said that, during the Senate impeachment trial, extensive evidence was produced attesting to Mr. Paxton’s “corruption, deception and self-dealing.”
“It is extremely unfortunate that after hearing and evaluating this evidence, the Texas Senate chose not to remove him from office,” he said.
Mr. Phelan added that the Senate’s refusal to remove Mr. Paxton from office is not the end of the matter.
“Ken Paxton is the subject of multiple other lawsuits, indictments and investigations. If new facts continue to come out, those who allowed him to keep his office will have much to answer for.”
But some of Mr. Phelan’s Republican colleagues took an opposing view.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) congratulated Mr. Paxton on the acquittal.
“Congrats to [Paxton] on being acquitted of every single article of impeachment,” Mr. Cruz wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
“This was the right outcome, consistent with the will of the voters. I look forward to seeing Paxton back in office, continuing to serve as the most effective conservative AG in America,” he added.
Mr. Paxton is widely viewed as one of America’s most prominent legal conservatives, taking up issues in defense of religious liberty, the Second Amendment, and the right to life.
Tony Buzbee, Mr. Paxton’s attorney, said in an earlier statement obtained by The Epoch Times that the impeachment was a baseless attack by political foes seeking to hamstring a formidable opponent who championed various conservative causes.
“This is about silencing conservatives, eliminating an effective political opponent, and overturning an election,” said Mr. Buzbee, an outspoken Houston attorney who said in the July statement that Mr. Paxton was the victim of a “kangaroo court.”
By contrast, Rick Wilson, who co-founded the Lincoln Project, a political action committee established by former Republicans opposed to President Trump, had a critical take on Mr. Paxton’s acquittal.
“Ken Paxton is quite near the peak of public corruption in America, and the Texas Senate GOP just let him walk. So much for personal responsibility and the rule of law,” Mr. Wilson wrote in a post on X.
Meanwhile, Mr. Patrick said he would call for an audit of taxpayer money spent during the impeachment process.
“Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment,” Mr. Patrick said after votes were cast in the impeachment trial.
“I’m going to call next week for a full audit of all taxpayer money spent by the House from the beginning of their investigation in March to their final bills they get from their lawyers,” he added.
Mr. Paxton had been under FBI investigation for years over accusations he used his office to help Mr. Paul, an Austin real estate developer and donor.
In October 2020, a number of top deputies in Mr. Paxton’s agency told the FBI that they believed the attorney general had used his office to help Mr. Paul, who had donated $25,000 to Mr. Paxton’s reelection campaign in 2018.
All of the whistleblowers were fired or resigned, with their allegations leading to a federal investigation into Mr. Paxton.
The Department of Justice later took over the investigation, charging Mr. Paul on June 6 with making false statements for the purpose of influencing the actions of financial institutions on applications for loans.
No federal charges have been filed against Mr. Paxton.
A half dozen or so former employees of the OAG filed complaints against or sued Mr. Paxton for wrongful dismissal, claiming he ousted them in retaliation after they reported him to federal authorities for alleged crimes he committed in assisting Mr. Paul.
The allegations relating to Mr. Paul were a major part of the 16 articles of impeachment filed against Mr. Paxton, including bribery and abuse of public trust.
After about a year of investigating the whistleblowers’ claims, Mr. Paxton’s office issued a report that refuted the former employees’ claims.
Later, an outside law firm hired by Mr. Paxton’s office to carry out a follow-up investigation found that Mr. Paxton didn’t break any laws or violate office procedure when he fired several staffers who later accused him of wrongful dismissal and retaliation.
A report (pdf) recently released by the outside law firm, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, found that there was “significant evidence to show the actions of the OAG toward the Complainants were based on legitimate, non-retaliatory, business grounds.”
The law firm’s findings dovetailed with the conclusions of an earlier OAG investigation (pdf) that similarly refuted each of the former employees’ and political appointees’ allegations and called for a deeper probe into the matter.
Mr. Paxton is only the third sitting official in Texas’s nearly 200-year history to have been impeached.
From The Epoch Times