There Will Be Rules

by | Jun 20, 2023 | Paxton Patrol, Paxton Scandal

The Texas Senate is expected to meet on June 20th to hash out the rules of procedure for the impeachment trial of Ken Paxton, and while the proceedings always promised plenty of intrigue, the plot has only thickened in recent days.

Perhaps the most pressing question for the Senate is the role one of their own will play in the trial. State Senator Angela Paxton, Ken Paxton’s wife, could potentially be one of the 31 jurors in his case, and according to Quorum Report, she has indicated that she won’t recuse herself from the trial.

That presents a wild and obvious conflict of interest in a case rife with them. House impeachment managers have presented a set of rules based on previous impeachment proceedings that included a recusal rule. While we haven’t seen the language of that proposed rule, it would likely force Senator Paxton’s recusal, reducing the jury to 30 members.

For Paxton, who was immediately suspended from office after the House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him, one might think a quick resolution would be best. That may not be the case, as Paxton’s attorney, powerhouse Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee, was recently quoted saying the process leading up to a trial could take a year or more. 

That would be consistent with Paxton’s preferred legal strategy of delaying trial as long as possible, which he’s done in the securities fraud case for which he’s been under indictment for nearly a decade.

But that also may not be possible for Paxton. The Senate has said they’ll set a trial date no later than late August, so Paxton is at best a few weeks away from learning when the trial will actually commence. 

While there is a lot of legal wrangling happening between the two legal teams, Paxton’s fate will ultimately be decided by only a handful of lawmakers. If Senator Paxton isn’t forced to recuse herself and all 31 members of the Texas Senate have a vote, 21 votes will be required to remove Paxton from office. 

If Angela Paxton does end up recusing herself, by her own choice or due to a recusal rule, that threshold drops to 20. In either case, less than half of the Republican caucus would need to vote to remove Paxton from office to bring an end to one of the most controversial tenures of any state attorney general in history.

Ken Paxton’s skill for political survival can’t be overlooked in all of this, either, and with the moratorium on fundraising that accompanied the legislative session lifted, Paxton has begun aggressively fundraising with language that touts his track record as the most conservative attorney general in the country.

While Paxton is trying to paint the case against him as a political witch hunt being driven by liberals and RINOs, those charges simply don’t stand up when you look at the overwhelming House vote to impeach him and the conservative bonafides of the impeachment managers who will help present the case to the Texas Senate.

Say what you want about lawmakers like Briscoe Cain, and we certainly have in this publication, but accusing him of being a RINO, or Republican In Name Only, is absolutely preposterous. Cain has carried the most extreme Kool-Aid for conservative causes over the years, sacrificing himself as a lightning rod for Texas Republicans during their controversial push to gut voting rights in 2021, and is one of the most reliably conservative votes in the House.

While Paxton tries to bob and weave his way out of trouble, today’s proceedings in the Senate could clarify exactly how perilous his position is. If Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the Senate pass a rules package that sets the table for a fair, and public, impeachment trial, it will likely create hurdles and headaches for Paxton and his legal team.

But if the Senate accommodates some of Paxton’s wishes, including the trial being held privately, Texans everywhere should be very worried about what’s happening under the dome in Austin.

Senior Advisor | + posts

Joe brings over a decade of experience as a political operative and creative strategist to Texas Signal, where he serves as our Senior Advisor and does everything from writing a regular column, Musings, to mentoring our staff and freelancers. Joe was campaign manager for Lina Hidalgo's historic 2018 victory for Harris County Judge and is a passionate sneakerhead.

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