Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, will not testify at his own Senate impeachment trial, his defense team said Tuesday.
Tony Buzbee, Paxton’s attorney, said in a statement obtained by The Epoch Times that the impeachment is a baseless attack on his client by political foes intent on damaging one of America’s most prominent legal conservatives.
“This is about silencing conservatives, eliminating an effective political opponent, and overturning an election,” said Buzbee, an outspoken Houston attorney who said that Paxton was the victim of a “kangaroo court.”
“They had the opportunity to have Attorney General Paxton testify during their sham investigation but refused to do so,” Buzbee continued.
“We will not bow to their evil, illegal, and unprecedented weaponization of state power in the Senate chamber,” he added.
A spokesperson for the House managers leading the impeachment did not return a message seeking comment.
Overthrowing the Will of the People?
Paxton, one of the GOP’s most prominent legal combatants who has fought against what he’s described as federal government overreach into state affairs, was elected to a third term as Texas AG in November 2022
He was impeached by Texas’ GOP-led House of Representatives on articles including bribery and abuse of public trust, triggering his suspension from office pending the outcome of a trial in the state Senate.
“His success in defending religious liberty, the right to life, the Second Amendment, and individual freedoms have made him a target,” Buzbee said in Tuesday’s statement.
Earlier, Paxton said in a statement following a Texas House panel’s recommendation of impeachment proceedings against him that Democrats and some of their Republican allies were trying to “overturn the results of a free and fair election” and that the move was an “illegitimate attempt to overthrow the will of the people.”
His trial in the Texas Senate is scheduled to begin Sept. 5.
Paxton had been under FBI investigation for years over accusations he used his office to help a donor, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.
In October 2020, a number of top deputies in Paxton’s agency told the FBI that they believed the attorney general had used his office to help Paul, who had donated $25,000 to Paxton’s reelection campaign in 2018.
All of the whistleblowers were fired or resigned, but the allegations led to a federal investigation into Paxton.
The Department of Justice later took over the investigation, but no federal charges have been filed against Paxton or Paul.
A half dozen or so former OAG employees filed complaints against or sued Paxton for wrongful dismissal, claiming he ousted them in retaliation after they reported him to federal authorities for alleged crimes he committed in assisting Paul.
The allegations relating to Paul were a major part of the 20 articles of impeachment filed recently against Paxton, including bribery and abuse of public trust.
At the time, Paxton broadly denied the claims.
“Facts matter. As time goes on people will see the truth of what we’re saying, that these people, some of them, had legitimate issues unrelated to me that ended up resulting in their termination,” Paxton said at the time.
After about a year of investigating the whistleblowers’ claims, Paxton’s office issued a report that refuted the former employees’ claims.
More recently, an outside law firm hired by Paxton’s office to carry out a follow-up investigation found that 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 dovetail 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.
Paxton is only the third sitting official in Texas’s nearly 200-year history to have been impeached.
Articles of Impeachment
The whistleblowers accused Paxton of improperly issuing legal opinions to benefit Paul and had previously reached a tentative settlement agreement with Paxton for $3.3 million, which prompted the Texas House committee investigation.
The articles also accuse Paxton of having benefited from Paul providing renovations to Paxton’s home in exchange for “favorable legal assistance” and “specialized access” to the office of the attorney general.
Other charges date back to Paxton’s pending 2015 felony securities fraud case, shortly after he won his first attorney general election, and include making false statements to state investigators.
Paxton’s attorney said in the statement Tuesday that the articles of impeachment against his client are “meritless and absurd and would never have been brought to the House floor or any Texas court in a credible proceeding.”
The evidence against him is “hearsay within hearsay within hearsay,” Buzbee added.
Paxton has repeatedly denied the charges and said the impeachment vote was based on false allegations.
Katabella Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.