AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Call him Kendini.
Throughout his nearly ten-year reign as Texas’ top cop, hard-right Ken Paxton has wriggled his way out of an almost comical number of legal and ethical controversies.
On Saturday, in the eyes of his critics, he did it again — dodging 16 articles of impeachment in the Texas legislature that looked to be his toughest challenge yet. After all, an overwhelming and bipartisan number of lawmakers in the state House had voted 121-23 in May for the articles.
The Texas Senate wasn’t so convinced. After nearly 12 hours of deliberation, they shot down all 16 articles against the third-term Texas attorney general — including articles for abuse of office, constitutional bribery, making false statements in official records, conspiracy and abuse of the public trust. Not a single article received a majority vote, let alone a two-thirds majority necessary to remove him from office.
To impeach Paxton, impeachment managers from the Texas House simply had to hit that two-thirds threshold on a single article. They were never able to do it. Paxton was not in attendance at the impeachment verdict on Saturday — but by the end of the hearing, he was back in office.
The impeachment itself was a somber affair. Almost immediately after Paxton was acquitted, however, Texas lawmakers dropped their veneer of seriousness and leaned back into hyperpartisanship.
Lawmakers expressed outrage that Paxton did not get to continue drawing a public salary during the process. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, himself a hardline Republican who ostensibly served as an impartial judge over the Senate trial, called for a “full audit” of the impeachment before launching into a stump speech singing the praises of the Lone Star State.
He admonished the Texas House for bringing the articles of impeachment in what he called a “rushed” manner. He took particular aim at Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, also a Republican.
“The speaker and his team ran through the first impeachment of a statewide official in Texas over 100 years, while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set at every other impeachment before,” Patrick said, admonishing the lower chamber. He said he would ask lawmakers to amend the constitution to prevent another “flawed” impeachment process from happening.
As news of the acquittal flowed from the state Capitol, other Texas powerbrokers rushed to offer their two cents.
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott acknowledged the Senate’s decision in a brief statement, saying that Paxton received a fair trial. “Attorney General Paxton has done an outstanding job representing Texas, especially pushing back against the Biden Administration,” Abbott wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Striking a celebratory tone, Paxton’s defense team spoke to reporters outside the Senate chamber. As Paxton lawyer Dan Cogdell held what appeared to be a celebratory cigar, lawyer Tony Buzbee described trying the case as a “Herculean task.”
“We are proud of the case we put on,” Buzbee said before taking yet another opportunity to cast the now-acquitted AG as victim. “We should not have had to prove our innocence, but that is what we did.”
Defeated but defiant, representative-members of the House Impeachment team Andrew Murr (R-Junction) and Ann Johnson (D-Houston) held their own news conference in the state Capitol shortly after the verdict. There, they told reporters that they were disappointed with the outcome but thankful for the opportunity to show “Ken Paxton’s corruption.”
“This trial painted an accurate and clear picture of an out-of-control attorney general who refused to listen to the desperate warnings of his conservative lawyers,” Murr said. Responding to questions of why they lost the case despite what they called clear evidence, both Murr and Johnson said of the trial: “It was political.”