After about eight hours of deliberations and an official vote, Texas state senators have reached a verdict in the impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Paxton, who was facing 16 articles of impeachment for bribery, corruption, and being unfit for office, has been acquitted on all 16 counts. He is now reinstated in office.
The votes fell along party lines for the most part.
A two-thirds majority would have been required to convict Paxton and remove him from office.
During deliberations, Senate jurors heard from some of Paxton’s former top aides who reported him to the FBI. The whistleblowers outlined their concerns about Paxton’s relationship with and efforts to protect Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. Paul was indicted on federal charges that he made false statements to banks.
The testimony also included an alleged extramarital affair that Paxton had with a woman Paul employed at the behest of the attorney general.
In closing statements, Republican state Rep. Andrew Murr, who helped lead the impeachment, made a final plea to convict Paxton.
"If we don’t keep public officials from abusing the powers of their office, then frankly, no one can," Murr said, according to The Associated Press
Paxton was not present in the senate chamber during what is Texas' first impeachment trial in nearly half a century, according to the AP. He was also not present for the majority of the two-week trial.
A jury of nearly 30 senators has been involved in the historic vote.
What Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick did not note during his remarks is that he accepted one million dollars and a two million dollar loan from the same political action committee that has vigorously devoted itself to defending Ken Paxton. The same group lobbed political grenades at fellow Republicans during the trial. Analysts say the acquittal is all about donors and the political base.
"Because at the end of the day, they were either going to earn the wrath of the Republican Party base and the activists, or they were going to effectively have to cast a vote that they knew was in spite of the evidence and not supported by the evidence," said Mark Jones, political science professor at Rice University.
The impeachment is showing a split in the state’s dominant political party, the GOP. If you go by the reaction of Texas Speaker of the House who retorted to the lieutenant governor through a statement that Saturday’s outcome appeared "to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice."
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