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Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee to act as defense in Paxton impeachment trial

Buzbee said suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton will not be removed from office by the Texas Senate, calling the process a "sham from the get-go."

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — During a defiant news conference Wednesday, Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee announced he's leading the legal defense team representing suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in his impending impeachment trial before the state Senate.

Buzbee used the conference, which was held at the Republican Party of Texas headquarters in downtown Austin, to attack the process by which the Texas House of Representatives brought 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton late last month.

“The impeachment articles that have been laid out by the House are baloney,” Buzbee said. “I'm embarrassed [the Texas House] would send something like that out, would vote on something like that and send it to the Senate with a suggestion that there should be some sort of trial.”

Buzbee is a well-known figure in the state of Texas. He has led high-profile lawsuits against NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson over sexual assault allegations and the Houston-based rapper Travis Scott following a 2021 concert in which a crowd surge crushed hundreds.

The lawyer is also no stranger to politics. In 2019, Buzbee launched an unsuccessful bid to become the mayor of Houston. Despite making it to a runoff, Buzbee lost to incumbent Sylvester Turner. 

Buzbee criticized the House for the speed at which the impeachment articles and the validity of the evidence were brought against Paxton.  

On May 25, the House Committee on General Investigating, comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, unanimously voted to file articles of impeachment against Paxton. The articles marked the culmination of an investigation the committee opened into the attorney general after he asked lawmakers to fund a $3.3 million settlement in a whistleblower lawsuit filed against him by a group of former employees. 

In their lawsuit, the whistleblowers accuse Paxton of retaliating against them after they reported him to the FBI for using his office to benefit Austin real estate investor and campaign donor Nate Paul.

There are also allegations that Paxton accepted bribes from Paul in the form of renovations to his Austin-area home and a job for a woman the attorney general was having an extramarital affair with.

The Texas House voted 121-23 in favor of impeachment two days after the filing of the articles.

Before the vote, Representative Andrew Murr, a Republican from Junction and chair of the General Investigating Committee, urged his fellow lawmakers to vote in favor of impeachment, saying, “We will not tolerate corruption, bribery, abuse of office retaliation and all the related charges that have been presented to you.”

Buzbee accused the investigating committee of rushing the proceedings and failing to provide Paxton with adequate due process to plead his case.

“It took less than 72 hours for the House to pass those articles of impeachment … what they did was convene a hurried, secretive kangaroo court more like something you would see in a third world country,” Buzbee said. “They rejected every ethical, moral and legal concept that exists in law.” 

Buzbee will be facing off against two other prominent Texas lawyers from the Houston area, Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin. 

Hardin is known for representing millionaires and celebrities from the world of sports and TV evangelism. DeGuerin is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has notably represented cult leader David Koresh and real estate mogul Robert Durst, who was acquitted of the murder and dismemberment of his neighbor in 2003. Durst was later convicted for the murder of journalist Susan Berman in 2021.

Buzbee took an opportunity to criticize his legal opponents during Wednesday’s news conference.

“These lawyers made their bones by successfully representing some of the most notorious and famous alleged wrongdoers in Texas,” Buzbee said. “I've never been called upon to represent somebody who allegedly killed someone, cut up their body and threw it into Galveston Bay.”

Along with Buzbee, Houston-area lawyer Dan Cogdell will defend Paxton in the Senate trial. Cogdell has represented Paxton in past cases, including his 2015 indictment on securities fraud charges. That case has not yet gone to trial due to procedural wrangling.

The Senate trial will begin no later than Aug. 28. Buzbee called on the Senate to hold it later, claiming it would give both sides more time to prepare.

One question lingering is whether Paxton’s wife, Angela, who has served as a member of the Texas Senate since 2019, will recuse herself from the trial.

Paxton has continued to argue his innocence and claim that the impeachment proceeding against him is politically motivated. While he remains suspended from office, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott appointed John Scott as interim attorney general. 

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Categories / Criminal, Government, Law

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