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The AG Acted Like a ‘Man With a Gun to His Head’: Paxton’s Trial Nears End

By José Medina

The impeachment trial of suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appears to be coming to an end.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is serving as the trial judge, said Monday that both sides were on track to run out of their allotted time during Thursday’s session. Closing arguments would begin after that before the case goes to the jury, also known as state senators. Once the jury gets the case, it will be anybody’s guess when we’ll get a verdict.

While we still don’t know how this trial will end, we did learn a few things, including some clues as to how many senators each side has to convince in order to prevail.

Here are a few takeaways from the impeachment trial as we reach its final days.

Paxton’s motions — all of them — are defeated

After considering multiple motions from Paxton’s side and handling some housekeeping issues, both sides opened arguments last Tuesday, the first day of the trial. Unfortunately for Paxton, a majority of senators voted to reject all of the motions, including one that would have thrown out the charges and ended the trial before it started.

The math appears to favor the prosecution slightly

Please remember that this is a super duper-educated guess – heavy emphasis on the guess.

The biggest of all questions going into the trial is whether there are enough votes to convict Paxton on any charges. Because Paxton’s wife is present (Sen. Angela Paxton won’t be allowed to vote), there need to be 21 votes to reach the required two-thirds of senators present for a guilty verdict.

The votes on Paxton’s motions on the first day offered clues on the math.

There are 12 Democratic members in the Senate. If you assume that all 12 stick together and vote to oust Paxton, nine Republicans are needed for a conviction. To this point, there isn’t anything to indicate any Democrat is leaning toward acquittal. Conversely, if at least 10 Republicans vote to acquit, Paxton returns to his job.

All 12 Democrats voted to deny all of Paxton’s motions. They were joined by seven Republicans who voted to sink all the motions (motions only require a majority vote of 16). Another three Republicans voted against most, but not all, Paxton motions. So, there are seven to 10 Republican senators who voted to at least consider the charges. On the other side, six Republicans voted with Paxton on every motion.

If you assume – again, this is a guess – that the seven senators who voted against the Paxton motions will also vote to convict on at least one impeachment article, then Paxton’s political career is two Republican votes away from ending. Assuming all the Republican senators voting for the Paxton motions also vote to acquit, the attorney general needs at least four Republicans to join them to survive impeachment.

A slight mathematical advantage goes to the prosecutors.

The whistleblowers take the stand

The former Paxton aides who blew the whistle on their boss in 2020 had until this trial only spoken through their attorneys, the lawsuit against the attorney general’s office, and in filings for this trial. They are now telling their story themselves in public and in front of the Senate.

The whistleblowers have described Paxton’s actions and involvement with Paul’s interests as unusual, unethical, or potentially criminal. So extraordinary were Paxton’s actions, that some of the whistleblowers even wondered if Paul was blackmailing Paxton.

Ryan Bangert, who served as deputy first assistant attorney general under Paxton, recalled the steps the attorney general took to urgently issue an opinion that could halt foreclosure sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul, at the time, had dozens of properties scheduled for foreclosure sales in a few days.

Bangert explained that Paxton ordered him to write the opinion. Bangert and another whistleblower delivered a draft of the opinion saying foreclosure sales could continue. That was on a Saturday morning. Paxton replied that the opinion must say the opposite and asked them to rewrite it. The two men worked the rest of the day and delivered on Paxton’s request shortly after midnight on Sunday. This time, the opinion said such sales could be halted.

“It was bizarre. He was acting like a man with a gun to his head. Anxious, desperate, urging me to get this out as quickly as humanly possible,” Bangert said of his boss.

Other former Paxton staffers painted a similar picture, including his office’s top investigator, who testified that Paxton’s requests to involve his staff in Paul’s affairs would, if fulfilled, amount to federal crimes.

Despite Paxton’s defenders attacking the impeachment as a witch hunt led by Democrats and so-called RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), the prosecution witnesses have been staunch conservatives. For example, Paxton’s former second in command, Jeff Mateer, is a high-ranking official with the Christian conservative law firm First Liberty Institute and was nominated for a federal judgeship by former President Trump.

The alleged mistress takes the stand

The woman with whom Paxton is alleged to have had an affair was expected to testify Wednesday afternoon. The prosecutors allege some of the attorney general’s misdeeds were an effort to hide the extramarital affair and that he benefitted from Paul hiring the woman. This means Sen. Paxton, who is required to attend the trial, will hear testimony from her husband’s alleged mistress. That’s one of the two Paxtons who will be present, because …

Where’s Ken Paxton?

Paxton was at his trial during the morning session on the opening day. When the Senate reconvened, Paxton was gone and hasn’t been seen in the impeachment court since. Interpret that as you will.