Ken Paxton was acquitted at his impeachment trial, but he still faces legal troubles

For years, the powers and protections that come with being Texas’ top lawyer have helped Ken Paxton fend off ethics complains, criminal charges and an FBI investigation.

With the Texas Senate’s Saturday vote to acquit Paxton of corruption charges at his impeachment trial the Republican has once again demonstrated his rare political resilience. And he retains the shield of the attorney general's office in legal battles still to come.

After being cleared, Paxton, 60, thanked his lawyers for “exposing the absurdity” of the “false allegations” against him, and he promised to resume doing legal battle with the administration of President Joe Biden.

"The weaponization of the impeachment process to settle political differences is not only wrong, it is immoral and corrupt," he said in a statement. “Now that this shameful process is over, my work to defend our constitutional rights will resume.”

Back in office, Paxton nonetheless still faces serious risk on three fronts: an ongoing a federal investigation into the same allegations that led to his impeachment; a disciplinary proceeding over his effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election; and felony securities fraud charges dating to 2015.

Here's what to know about each.


Paxton came under FBI investigation in 2020 when eight of his top deputies reported him for allegedly breaking the law to help a wealthy donor, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.

The former deputies' accusation that Paxton abused his power to help Paul were at the core of Paxton's impeachment. Lawmakers in the Texas House of Representatives say it was the still-open question of funding a $3.3 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by four of the deputies that sparked the impeachment investigation.

Several of Paxton's former deputies took the witness stand against him. They recounted going to the FBI and testified that the attorney general tried to help Paul fend of a separate FBI investigation

They also testified that Paul employed a woman with whom Paxton had an extramarital affair. Another former employee, Drew Wicker, said Paxton second-in-command later discouraged him from speaking with the FBI.

Paul was indicted in June on charges of making false statements to banks. He has pleaded not guilty and was not called to testify at the impeachment trial.

The federal investigation of Paxton has dragged on for years and was shifted in February from a prosecutors in Texas to ones in Washington, D.C. In August, federal prosecutors began using a grand jury in San Antonio to examine Paxton and Paul's dealings, according to two people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because of secrecy rules around grand jury proceedings.

One said the grand jury heard from Wicker, Paxton’s former personal aide. At the impeachment trial, Wicker testified that he once heard a contractor tell Paxton he would need to check with “Nate” about the cost of renovations to the attorney general’s Austin home.

Paxton has consistently denied wrongdoing. One of his defense attorneys, Dan Cogdell, acknowledged in August that authorities were still interviewing witnesses but said the “case will go nowhere at the end of the day.”


In 2015, Paxton was indicted on charges of defrauding investors in a Dallas-area tech startup by not disclosing he was being paid by the company, called Servergy, to recruit them. He faces five to 99 years in prison if convicted and has pleaded not guilty.

The indictments were handed up just months after Paxton was sworn in as attorney general. He won second and third terms despite them.

Paxton's trial has been delayed by legal debate over whether it should be heard in the Dallas area or Houston, changes in which judge would handle it and a protracted battle over how much the special prosecutors should get paid.

Weeks after the Republican-led Texas House voted to impeach Paxton, the state's high criminal court ruled his trial would proceed in Houston. The judge overseeing it said in August that she would set a trial date after the impeachment trial.

Cogdell said that month that if Paxton were removed from office it would open the possibility of him making a plea agreement in the case.


Also on hold during Paxton's impeachment trial was an ethics case brought by the state bar.

In 2020, Paxton asked the U.S. Supreme Court to, effectively, overturn then-President Donald Trump's electoral defeat by Joe Biden based on bogus claims of fraud. The high court threw out the request.

Afterward, the State Bar of Texas received a series of complaints alleging that Paxton and a deputy had committed processional misconduct with the suit. The bar didn't initially take up the complaints but later launched an investigation.

Last year, the bar sued seeking unspecified discipline for Paxton and his second-in-command, alleging they were “dishonest" with the Supreme Court.

Paxton dismissed the bar's suits as “meritless” political attacks. The attorney general's office has argued that because it is an executive branch agency and the bar is part of the judicial branch, the cases run afoul of separation of powers under the state constitution.

A judge overseeing the bar's case against the deputy, Brent Webster, accepted this argument. But he was reversed on appeal in July. That month, another court scheduled arguments in the disciplinary case against Paxton only to delay them when it became clear they would fall in the middle of his impeachment trial.

The attorney general's office continued to defend Paxton in the case even after he was suspended from office. If he's found to have violated ethics rules, Paxton faces the prospect of disbarment, suspension, or a lesser punishments.

In Texas, Ken Paxton legal team works to invalidate every article of impeachment before trial

By Robert Downen The Texas Tribune

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Attorneys for suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a flurry of motions over the weekend that seek to dismiss additional articles of impeachment, arguing that the allegations are baseless or fall under the legitimate duties of the attorney general’s office.

In the documents, filed before Saturday’s deadline for pretrial motions and made public Monday, Paxton’s attorneys routinely accused House impeachment managers of using “any means necessary” to “overturn the will of voters” who elected Paxton last year.

Paxton’s team also downplayed the severity of the accusations against him — including those surrounding his firing of whistleblowers from his office who reported him to law enforcement for alleged bribery — and argued that many of the claims are without merit or do not rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

In addition to challenging individual articles, Paxton’s lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing all 20 articles of impeachment that were approved 121-23 by the House in May, arguing that the accusations are unsupported by evidence.

The House impeachment managers have until Aug. 15 to respond in writing to all pretrial motions. Paxton’s impeachment trial, with 30 Texas senators acting as jurors, is set to begin Sept. 5.

Combined with earlier filings, the latest pretrial motions set up a dramatic confrontation in the early moments of Paxton’s trial — a series of votes by senators on whether to eliminate some or all of the articles of impeachment before evidence can be presented. A majority of senators — 16 — can approve dismissal of an article, placing an early test on the determination of the chamber’s 19 Republicans to allow a trial on the allegations.

If all articles were to be dismissed, the impeachment trial would be over before it began. If any article survives, the trial would move to opening statements by lawyers for the House impeachment managers. Paxton’s lawyers could deliver their opening statements immediately afterward or defer until later in the trial.

The new filings are the latest in which Paxton’s team, led by Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee, has sought to have articles tossed.

Last week, Paxton’s team filed two motions to dismiss 19 of the 20 articles of impeachment, arguing that all but one — Article 8 — ran afoul of the “prior-term doctrine,” which they said bars officials from being impeached for conduct that predates their most recent election. They argued that almost all of the allegations outlined by House investigators were known to voters when they reelected him to his third six-year term in 2022.

But while those filings attacked the impeachment articles on procedural grounds, the new flurry of motions individually addressed the merits of the allegations against Paxton. The lawyers also sought to dismiss Article 8, which deals with Paxton’s request that the Legislature finance his $3.3 million lawsuit settlement with the whistleblowers — a request that prompted the initial House investigation into him earlier this year.

In its filing, Paxton’s team framed the lawsuit settlement as a “money-saving agreement” of “ordinary employment litigation.” It also accused the House of having “done violence to our democracy” by attempting to impeach Paxton over what it described as a “routine” function of his job.

The new filings also hint at Paxton’s potential defense strategy for allegations involving Nate Paul, a political donor and Austin real estate investor who was arrested in June on federal felony charges of lying to financial institutions to secure business loans. House investigators accused Paxton of misusing his office to help Paul’s business and to interfere with criminal investigations into Paul’s activities. In return, investigators alleged, Paul paid to remodel Paxton’s Austin home and hired a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an extramarital affair.

In the filing, Paxton’s team downplayed the relationship with Paul and argued that there was no evidence that Paxton formed “an illegal agreement” to help Paul in exchange for a benefit — a “quid pro quo” required under state bribery laws.

“As they stand, the Articles allege nothing more than that the Attorney General had a personal relationship with a constituent and that the constituent found something the Attorney General did to be agreeable in some way,” Paxton’s attorneys wrote. “If that is enough to amount to a bribe, scarcely any elected official is innocent of the House’s notion of bribery.“

On the other side of the legal fight, House impeachment managers filed a motion Saturday requesting clarity on several Senate-approved trial rules. They asked that cross-examination not count toward the 24 hours allotted to each side to present evidence; that both sides exchange “all documents, photographs or other materials expected to be used at trial” by Aug. 22; and that House managers be allowed to use their wireless mobile devices while on the Senate floor during the trial.

Disclosure: Tony Buzbee has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been impeached

Just hours after Donald Trump threatened Texas Republicans on impeaching their own attorney General, claiming he would “fight” anyone who did so…

… and despite his own threats …

NEW: Texas AG Ken Paxton has personally called House members while on the floor threatening them with political retribution if they vote in favor of impeachment, Rep. Charlie Geren announced on the House floor.

— Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) May 27, 2023

… the decidedly not “Radical Left Democrats” and “RINOS” Texas House voted overwhelmingly to do the right thing. 

Breaking: Texas House votes to impeach @KenPaxtonTX, 121-23 #txlege

— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) May 27, 2023

This makes Paxton the first Texas statewide official to be impeached since 1917. He faces 20 charges. Unlike federal impeachment, a Texas impeachment immediately suspends the official from all official duties.

The Texas Senate will now hold a trial. Two-thirds is required to permanently remove  and bar him from future office.